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UICKs DUKW Hl.< AND tLAPPKU ME OVEU TUE HEAD WITH IT, EVEN AS MY FINGER 

CURLED UN TUE TRIGGER. Frontispiece. Page 161. 



RAW GOLD 



A NOVEL 



BY 



BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR 




Illustrations by 
CLARENCE H. ROWE 



Q.W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS NEW YORK 



Copyright, 1907, by 
STREET & SMITH 



Copyright, 1908, by 
G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY 



Issued June, 1908 



Raw Cold 



CONTENTS 



^61 



OUAPTSB 



PAGE 



I. 


The Long Arm of the Law . 




7 


II. 


A Reminiscent Hour . 




i8 


III. 


Birds of Prey 




30 


IV. 


A Tale Half Told 




39 


V. 


Mounted Again . 




50 


VI. 


Stony Crossing . 




58 


VII. 


Thirty Days in Irons . 




69 


VIII. 


Lyn 




85 


IX. 


An Idle Afternoon 




103 


X. 


The Vanishing Act, and 


the Fruits 






Thereof 




116 


XI. 


The Gentleman Who Rode i 


n the Lead 


130 


XII. 


We Lose Again . 




146 


XIII. 


Outlawed . . . , 




163 


XIV. 


A Close Call 




179 


XV. 


Piegan Takes a Hand . 




197 


XVI. 


In the Camp of the Enemy , 




214 


XVII. 


A Master-stroke of Villainy . 




226 


XVIII. 


Honor Among Thieves 




240 


XIX. 


The Bison . 




251 


XX. 


The Mouth of Sage Creek 




258 


XXI. 


An Elemental Ally 




271 


XXII. 


Speechless Hicks 




283 


XXIII 


The Spoils of War 




294 


XXIV. 


The Pipe of Peace 




. 303 



mG92S'77 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



Hicks drew his and slapped me over the head with it, even as my 

finger curled on the trigger ..... Frontispiece i6i 

Bedded in the soft earth underneath lay the slim buckskin sacks . 159 

"There's been too much blood shed over that wretched gold al- 
ready. Let them have it" 212 

A war for the open road against an enemy whose only weapon was 

his unswerving bulk 356 



RAW GOLD. 

CHAPTER I. 

THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW. 

HOW many of us, I wonder, can look back 
over the misty, half-forgotten years and 
not see a few that stand out clear and 
golden, sharp-cut against the sky-line of memory? 
Years that we wish we could live again, so that we 
might revel in every full-blooded hour. For we so 
seldom get the proper focus on things until we look 
at them through the clarifying telescope of Time; 
and then one realizes with a pang that he can't 
back-track into the past and take his old place in 
the passing show. 

Would we, if we could? It's an idle question, I 
know; wise men and musty philosophers say that 
regrets are foolish. But I speak for myself only 

7 



8 RAW GOLD 



when I say that I would gladly wheedle old, gray- 
bearded Tempus into making the wheels click back- 
ward till I could see again the buffalo-herds darken- 
ing the green of Northwestern prairies. They and 
the blanket Indian have passed, and the cowpuncher 
and Texas longhorns that replaced them will soon 
be little more than a vivid memory. Already the 
man with the plow is tearing up the brown sod that 
was a stamping-ground for each in turn ; the wheat- 
fields have doomed the sage-brush, and truck-farms 
line the rivers where the wild cattle and the elk 
came down to drink. 

It was a big life while it lasted — primitive, ex- 
hilarating, spiced with dangers that added zest to 
the game; the petty, sordid things of life only came 
in on the iron trail. There was no place for them 
in the old West, the dead-and-gone West that will 
soon be forgotten. 

I expect nearly everybody between the Arctic 
Circle and the Isthmus of Panama has heard more 
or less of the Northwest Mounted Police. They're 
changing with the years, like everything else in this 



RAW GOLD 



one-time buffalo country, but when Canada sent 
them out to keep law and order in a territory that 
was a City of Refuge for a lot of tough people 
who had played their string out south of the line, 
they were, as a dry old codger said about the Indian 
as a scalp-lifter, naturally fitted for the task. And 
it was no light task, then, for six hundred men to 
keep the peace on a thousand miles of frontier. 

It doesn't seem long ago, but it was in '74 that 
they filed down the gangway of a Missouri River 
boat, walking as straight and stiff as if every 
mother's son of them had a ramrod under his tunic, 
and out on a rickety wharf that was groaning under 
the weight of a king's ransom in baled buffalo- 
hides. 

"Huh!" old Piegan Smith grunted in my ear. 
"Look at 'em, with their solemn faces. There'll be 
heaps uh fun in the Cypress Hills country when 
they get t' runnin' the whisky- jacks out. Ain't they 
a queer-lookin' bunch ?" 

They were a queer-looking lot to more than Pie- 
gan. Their uniforms fitted as if they had grown 



10 RAW GOLD 



into them; scarlet jackets buttoned to the throat, 
black riding-breeches with a yellow stripe running 
down the outer seam of each leg, and funny little 
round caps like the lid of a big baking-powder can 
set on one side of their heads, held there by a nar- 
row strap that ran around the chin. But for all 
their comic-opera get-up, there was many a man 
that snickered at them that day in Benton who 
learned later to dread the flash of a scarlet jacket 
on the distant hills. 

They didn't linger long at Benton, but got under 
way and marched overland to the Cypress Hills. 
On Battle Creek they built the first post, Fort 
Walsh, and though in time they located others^ 
Walsh remained headquarters for the Northwest 
so long as buffalo-hunting and the Indian trade en- 
dured. And Benton and Walsh were linked to- 
gether by great freight-trails thereafter, for the 
Mounted Police supplies came up the Missouri and 
traveled by way of long bull-trains to their destina- 
tion; there was no other way then; Canada was a 
wilderness, and Benton with its boats from St. 



RAW GOLD 11 



Louis was the gateway to the whole Northwest. 
Two years from the time Fort Walsh was built 
the La Pere outfit sent me across the line in charge 
of a bunch of saddle-horses the M. P. quartermaster 
had said he'd buy if they were good. I turned them 
over the afternoon I reached Walsh, and inside of 
forty-eight hours I was headed home with the sale- 
money — ten thousand dollars — in big bills, so that 
I could strap it round my middle. I remember that 
on the hill south of the post the three of us, two 
horse-wranglers and myself, flipped a dollar to see 
whether we kept to the Assiniboine trail or struck 
across country. It was a mighty simple transaction, 
but it produced some startling results for me, that 
same coin-spinning. The eagle came uppermost, 
and the eagle meant the open prairie for us. So 
we aim^ed for Stony Crossing, and let our horses 
jog; there were three of us, well mounted, and we 
had plenty of grub on a pack-horse; it seemed that 
our homeward trip should be a pleasant jaunt. It 
certainly never entered my head that I should soon 
have ample opportunity to see how high the ''Riders 



12 RAW GOLD 



of the Plains" stacked up when they undertook to 
enforce Canadian law and keep intact the peace and 
dignity of the Crown. 

We had started early that morning, and by the 
time we thought of camping for dinner we saw 
ahead of us what we could tell was a white man's 
camp. It wasn't far, so we kept on, and presently 
it developed that we had accidentally come upon old 
Piegan Smith. He was lying there ostensibly rest- 
ing his stock from the hard buffalo-running of the 
past winter, but I knew the old rascal's horses were 
more weary from a load of moonshine whisky they 
had lately jerked into the heart of the territory. 
But he was there, anyway, and half a dozen choice 
spirits with him, and when we'd said "Howdy" all 
around they proceeded to spring a keg of whisky 
on us. 

Now, the whole Northwest groaned beneath a 
cast-iron prohibition law at that time, and for some 
years thereafter. No booze of any description was 
supposed to be sold in that portion of the Queen's 
domain. If you got so thirsty you couldn't stand 



RAW GOLD 13 



it any longer, you could petition the governing 
power of the Territory for what was known as a 
**permit," which same document granted you leave 
and license to have in your possession one gallon of 
whisky. If you were a person of irreproachable 
character, and your humble petition reached his ex- 
cellency when he was amiably disposed, you might, 
in the course of a few weeks, get the desired per- 
mission — but, any way you figured it, whisky was 
hard to get, and when you got it it came mighty 
high. 

Naturally, that sort of thing didn't appeal to 
many of the high-stomached children of fortune 
who ranged up and down the Territory — being 
nearly all Americans, born with the notion that it is 
a white man's incontestable right to drink whatever 
he pleases whenever it pleases him. Consequently, 
every mother's son of them who knew how rustled a 
"worm," took up his post in some well-hidden 
coulee close to the line, and inaugurated a small- 
sized distillery. Others, with less skill but just as 
much ambition, delivered it in four-horse loads to 



14 RAW GOLD 



the traders, who in turn "boot-legged" it to whoso- 
ever would buy. Some of them got rich at it, too; 
which wasn't strange, when you consider that every- 
body had a big thirst and plenty of money to gratify 
it. I've seen barrels of moonshine whisky, so new 
and rank that two drinks of it would make a jack- 
rabbit spit in a bull-dog's face, sold on the quiet for 
six and seven dollars a quart — and a twenty-dollar 
gold piece was small money for a gallon. 

All this, of course, was strictly against the peace 
and dignity of the powers that were, and so the red- 
coated men rode the high divides with their eagle 
eye peeled for any one who looked like a whisky- 
runner. And whenever they did locate a man with 
the contraband in his possession, that gentleman was 
due to have his outfit confiscated and get a chance 
to ponder the error of his ways in the seclusion of 
a Mounted Police guard-house if he didn't make an 
exceedingly fast getaway. 

We all took a drink when these buffalo-hunters 
produced the "red-eye." So far as the right or 
wrong of having contraband whisky was concerned, 



RAW GOLD 15 



I don't think any one gave it a second thought. 
The patriarchal decree of the government was a 
good deal of a joke on the plains, anyway — except 
when you were caught defying it! Then Piegan 
Smith set the keg on the ground by the fire where 
everybody could help himself as he took the notion, 
and I laid down by a wagon while dinner was being 
cooked. 

After six weeks of hard saddle-work, it struck 
me just right to lie there in the shade with a cool 
breeze fanning my face, and before long I was 
headed smoothly for the Dreamland pastures. I 
hadn't dozed very long when somebody scattered 
my drowsiness with an angry yelp, and I raised up 
on one elbow to see what was the trouble. 

Most of the hunters were bunched on one side of 
the fire, and they were looking pretty sour at a 
thin, trim-looking Mounted Policeman who was 
standing with his back to me, holding the whisky- 
keg up to his nose. A little way off stood his horse, 
bridle-reins dragging, surveying the little group 
with his ears pricked up as if he, too, could smell 



16 RAW GOLD 



the whisky. The trooper sniffed a moment and set 
the keg down. 

"Gentlemen," he asked, in a soft, drawly voice 
that had a mighty famihar note that puzzled me, 
"have you a permit to have whisky in your pos- 
session ?" 

Nobody said a word. There was really nothing 
they could say. He had them dead to rights, for 
it was smuggled whisky, and they knew that police- 
man was simply asking as a matter of form, and 
that his next move would be to empty the refresh- 
ments on the ground; if they got rusty about it he 
might haze the whole bunch of us into Fort Walsh 
— and that meant each of us contributing a big, fat 
fine to the Queen's exchequer. 

"You know the law," he continued, in that same 
mild tone. "Where is your authority to have this 

stuff?" I 

Then the clash almost came. If old Piegan 
Smith hadn't been sampling the contents of that keg 
so industriously he would never have made a break. 
For a hot-tempered, lawless sort of an old repro- 



RAW GOLD 17 



bate, he had good judgment, which a man surely 
needed if he wanted to live out his allotted span in 
the vicinity of the forty-ninth parallel those trou- 
bled days. But he'd put enough of the fiery stuff 
under his belt to make him touchy as a parlor- 
match, and when the trooper, getting no answer, 
flipped the keg over on its side and the whisky 
trickled out among the grass-roots, Piegan forgot 
that he was in an alien land where the law is up- 
held to the last, least letter and the arm of it is long 
and unrelenting. 

"Here's my authority, yuh blasted runt,*' he 
yelled, and jerked his six-shooter to a level with the 
policeman's breast. "Back off from that keg, or 
I'll hang your hide to dry on my wagon-wheel in 
a holy minute !" 



CHAPTER 11. 

A REMINISCENT HOUR. 

THE policeman's shoulders stiffened, and he put 
one foot on the keg. He made no other 
move; but if ever a man's back was eloquent 
of determination, his was. From where I lay I 
could see the fingers of his left hand shut tight 
over his thumb, pressing till the knuckles were 
white and the cords in the back of his hand 
stood out in little ridges. I'd seen that before, 
and I recalled with a start when and where I'd 
heard that soft, drawly voice. I knew I wasn't 
mistaken in the man, though his face was turned 
from me, and I likewise knew that old Pie- 
gan Smith was nearer kingdom come than he'd been 
for many a day, if he did have the drop on the man 
with the scarlet jacket. He was holding his pistol 
on a double back-action, rapid-fire gun-fighter, and 
only the fact that Piegan was half drunk and the 



RAW GOLD 19 



Other performing an impersonal duty had so far 
prevented the opening of a large-sized package of 
trouble. While on the surface Smith had all the 
best of it, he needed that advantage, and more, to 
put himself on an even footing with Gordon 
MacRae in any dispute that had to be arbitrated 
with a Colt ; for MacRae was the cool-headed, virile 
type of man that can keep his feet and burn powder 
after you've planted enough lead in his system to 
sink him in swimming water. 

There was a minute of nasty silence. Smith 
glowered behind his cocked pistol, and the police- 
man faced the frowning gun, motionless, waiting 
for the flutter of Piegan's eye that meant action. 
The gurgling keg was almost empty when he spoke 
again. 

''Don't be a fool. Smith," he said quietly. "You 
can't buck the whole Force, you know, even if you 
managed to kill me. You know the sort of orders 
we have about this whisky business. Put up your 
gun." 

Piegan heard him, all right, but his pistol never 



20 RAW GOLD 



wavered. His thin lips were pinched close, so tight 
the scrubby beard on his chin stood straight out in 
front; his chest was heaving, and the angry blood 
stood darkly red under his tanned cheeks. Alto- 
gether, he looked as if his trigger finger might 
crook without warning. It was one of those long 
moments that makes a fellow draw his breath sharp 
when he thinks about it afterward. If any one had 
made an unexpected move just then, there would 
have been sudden death in that camp. And while 
the lot of us sat and stood about perfectly motion- 
less, not daring to say a word one way or the other, 
lest the wrathful old cuss squinting down the gun- 
barrel would shoot, the policeman took his foot off 
the empty cause of the disturbance, and deliberately 
turning his back on Piegan's leveled six-shooter, 
walked calmly over to his waiting horse. 

Smith stared after him, frankly astonished. Then 

he lowered his gun. "The nerve uh the darned 

Say! don't go off mad," he yelled, his anger evap- 
orating, changing on the instant to admiration for 
the other's cold-blooded courage. "Yuh spilled all 



RAW GOLD 21 



the whisky, darn yuh — but then I guess yuh don't 
know any better'n t' spoil good stuff that away. 
No hard feelin's, anyhow. Stop an' eat dinner with 
us, an' we'll call it square." 

The policeman withdrew his foot from the stirrup 
and smiled at Piegan Smith, and Piegan, to show 
that his intentions were good, impulsively unbuckled 
his cartridge-belt and threw belt and six-shooters on 
the ground. 

"I don't hanker for trouble with a honibre like 
you," he grunted. "I guess I was a little bit hasty, 
anyhow." 

"I call you," the policeman said, and stripping 
the saddle and bridle from his sweaty horse, turned 
him loose to graze. 

"Hello, Mac!" I hailed, as he walked up to the 
fire. He turned at the sound of my voice with 
vastly more concern than he'd betrayed under the 
muzzle of Piegan's gun. 

"Sarge himself !" he exclaimed. "Beats the devil 
how old trails cross, eh ?" 

"It sure does," I retorted, and our hands met. 



22 RAW GOLD 



He sat down beside me and began to roll a ciga- 
rette. You wouldn't call that a very demonstra- 
tive greeting between two old amigos who'd bucked 
mesquite and hair-lifting Comanches together, all 
over the Southwest. It had been many a moon 
since we took different roads, but MacRae hadn't 
changed that I could see. That was his way — he 
never slopped over, no matter how he felt. If ever 
a mortal had a firm grip on his emotions, MacRae 
had, and yet there was a sleeping devil within him 
that was never hard to wake. But his looks gave 
no hint of the real man under the surface placidity; 
you'd never have guessed what possibilities lay be- 
hind that immobile face, with its heavy-lashed hazel 
eyes and plain, thin-lipped mouth that tilted up just 
a bit at the corners. We had parted in the Texas 
Panhandle live years before — an unexpected, invol- 
untary separation that grew out of a poker game 
with a tough crowd. The tumultuous events of that 
night sent me North in undignified haste, for I am 
not warlike by nature, and Texas was no longer 
healthy for me unless I cared to follow up a bloody 



RAW GOLD 23 

feud. But I'd left Mac a trail-boss for the whitest 
man in the South, likewise engaged to the finest girl 
in any man's country ; and it's a far cry from punch- 
ing cows in Texas to wearing the Queen's colors 
and keeping peace along the border-line. I knew, 
though, that he'd tell me the how and why of it in 
his own good time, if he meant that I should know. 

One or two of the buffalo-hunters exchanged 
words with us while Mac was building his cigarette 
and lighting it. Old Piegan stretched himself in 
the grass, and in a few moments was snoring ener- 
getically, his grizzled face bared to the cloudless 
sky. The camp grew still, except for the rough 
and ready cook pottering about the fire, boiling 
buffalo-meat and mixing biscuit-dough. The fire 
crackled around the Dutch ovens, and the odor of 
coffee came floating by. Then Mac hunched him- 
self against a wagon-wheel and began to talk. 

"I suppose it looks odd to you, Sarge, to see me 
in this rig?" he asked whimsically. "It beats punch- 
ing cows, though — that is, when a fellow discovers 
that he isn't a successful cowpuncher." 



24 RAW GOLD 



"Does it?" I returned dryly. "You were making 
good in the cow business last time I saw you. What 
did you see in the Mounted Police that took your 
fancy?" 

He shrugged his shoulders philosophically. 
"They're making history in this neck of the woods," 
he said, "and I joined for lack of something better 
to do. You'll find us a cosmopolitan lot, and not 
bad specimens as men go. It's a tolerably satisfy- 
ing life — once you get out of the ranks." 

"How about that?" I queried; and as I asked 
the question I noticed for the first time the gilt 
bars on his coat sleeve. "You've got past the buck 
trooper stage, then? How long have you been in 
the force?" 

"Joined the year they took over the Territory," 
he replied. "Yes, I've prospered in the service. Got 
to be a sergeant; I'm in charge of a line-post on 
Milk River — Pend d' Oreille. You'd better come 
on over and stay with me a day or two, Sarge." 
I was heading in that direction," I answered, 
only I expected to cross the river farther up. "But, 



iC\ 



tl 



RAW GOLD 25 



man, I never thought to see you up here. I thought 
you'd settled down for keeps; supposed you were 
playing major-domo for the Double R down on the 
Canadian River, and the father of a family by this 
time. How we do get switched around in this old 
world." 

"Don't we, though," he said reflectively. "It's a 
great game. You never know when nor where 
your trail is liable to fork and lead you to new 
countries and new faces, or maybe plumb over the 
big divide. Oh, well, it'll be all the same a hundred 
years from now, as Bill Frayne used to say." 

"You've turned cynic," I told him, and he smiled. 

"No," he declared, "I rather think I'd be classed 
as a philosopher; if you could call a man a philoso- 
pher who can enjoy hammering over this bald coun- 
try, chasing up whisky-runners and hazing non- 
treaty Indians onto reservations, and raising hell 
generally in the name of the law. Still, I don't 
take life as seriously as I used to. What's the use? 
We eat and drink and sleep and work and fight 
because it's the nature of us two-legged brutes ; but 



2a RAW GOLD 



there's no use getting excited about it, because 
things never turn out exactly the way you expect 
them to, anyhow." 

"If that's your philosophy of life," I bantered, 
"you ought to make a rattling good policeman. I 
can see where a calm, dispassionate front would 
save a man a heap of trouble, at this sort of thing." 

"Josh all you like," MacRae laughed, "but I tell 
you a man does save himself a heap of trouble when 
he doesn't get too anxious whether things come out 
just as he wants them to or not. Six or seven years 
ago I couldn't have done this sort of work. I've 
changed, I reckon. There was a time when I'd have 
felt that there was only one way to settle a row like 
I just had. And the chances are that I would have 
wound up by putting that old boy's light out. 
Which wouldn't have helped matters any for me, 
and certainly would have been tough on old Piegan 
Smith — who happens to be a pretty fair sort; only 
playing the opposite side of the game." 

As if the low-spoken sound of his name had 
reached his ears and electrified him, Piegan sat up 



RAW GOLD 27 



very suddenly, and at the same instant the cook 
sounded the long call. So we broke off our chat, 
and getting a tin plate and cup and a set of eating- 
implements, we helped ourselves from the Dutch 
ovens and squatted in the grass to eat. 

When we'd finished, one of the hunters rounded 
up the horses and we caught our nags and saddled 
them. MacRae was going back to his post that 
night, and I also was in haste to be traveling — -that 
ten thousand dollars of another man's money was 
a responsibility I wanted to be rid of without the 
least possible delay. Pend d' Oreille was twenty- 
five or thirty miles south of us — a long afternoon's 
ride, but MacRae and I were glad of each other's 
company, and it was worth while straining a point 
to have even one night's shelter at a Police camp 
in that semi-hostile country. There were no road- 
agents to speak of, for sums of money large enough 
to tempt gentry of that ilk seldom passed over those 
isolated trails; but here and there stray parties of 
Stonies and Blackfeet, young bucks in war-paint 
and brcech-clout, hot on the trail of their first medi- 



28 RAW GOLD 



cine, skulked warily among the coulee-scarred 
ridges, keeping in touch with the drifting buffalo- 
herds and alert for a chance to ambush a straggling 
white man and lift his hair. They weren't par- 
ticularly dangerous, except to a lone man, still there 
was always the chance of running slap into them, 
in which case they usually made a more or less 
vigorous attempt to wipe you out. A red coat, how- 
ever, was a passport to safety ; even so early in the 
game the copper-colored brother had learned that 
the Mounted Police were a hard combination — an 
enemy who never turned back when he took the 
war-trail. 

When we were mounted Mac leaned over and 
muttered an admonitory word for Piegan's ear 
alone. "Better lay low, Smith,'* he said, "and let 
the boot-leggers go it on their own hook for a while. 
We are watching for you. It's only a matter of 
time till somebody takes you in, because your 
whisky is making lots of nasty work for us these 
days, and we've got orders from the big chief to 
nail you if there's a show. I'm passing up this 



RAW GOLD 29 



little affair to-day. That doesn't count. But the 
next time you cross the river with a four-horse load 
of it I'll be on you like a wolf. If I don't, some 
other fellow will. Sahef Think it over." 

Smith bit off a huge chew of tobacco, while he 
digested MacRae's warning. Then he looked up 
with a smile that broadened to a grin. ''You're all 
right," he said cheerfully. "I like your style. If I 
get the worst uh the deal, I won't holler. So-long !" 



CHAPTER III. 

BIRDS OF PREY. 

ONCE clear of the buffalo-hunters' camp, 
MacRae and I paired off and speedily began 
to compare notes, where we had been, what 
we had done, how the world had used us in the five 
years since we had seen each other last. And al- 
though we gabbled freely enough, MacRae avoided 
all mention of the persons of whom I most wished 
to hear. I didn't press him, for I knew that some- 
thing out of the common must have happened, else 
he would not have been wearing the Queen's scarlet, 
and I didn't care to bring up a subject that might 
prove a sore one with him. But men we had knov/n 
and trails we had followed furnished us plenty of 
grist for the conversational mill. Our talk ranged 
from the Panhandle to the Canada line, while our 
horses jogged steadily southward. 

Dark came down on the four of us as we topped 



RAW GOLD 31 



Manyberries Ridge, and seven or eight miles of 
rolling prairie still lay between us and Pend d* 
Oreille. If Mac had been alone he would have made 
the post by sundown, for the Mounted Police rode 
picked horses, the best money could buy. But it 
was a long jaunt to Benton, and the rest of us were 
inclined to an easier pace, that we might husband 
the full strength of our grass-fed mounts for any 
emergency that should arise on the way. 

With the coming of night a pall of clouds blew 
out of the west, blanketing the stars and shutting 
off their hazy light completely, and when the sky 
was banked full from horizon to horizon, the dark 
enveloped us like a black sea-mist. Once or twice 
we startled a little bunch of buffalo, and listened 
to the thud of their hoofs as they fled through the 
sultry, velvet gloom ; but for the most our ride was 
attended by no sounds save the night song of frogs 
in the upland sloughs and the hollow clank of steel 
bits keeping time to the creak of saddle-leather. 

Halfway down the long slope MacRae and I, 
riding in the lead, pulled up to make a cigarette 



32 RAW GOLD 



on the brink of a straight-walled coulee that we 
could sense but not see. As I waited for Mac to 
strike a match my eyes roved about, seeking to 
pierce the unnatural blackness that wrapped itself 
about us, and while my gaze was for an instant 
fixed on the night-enshrouded canyon, a red tongue 
of flame flashed out for a m.oment in the inky 
shadow below. MacRae saw it also, and held the 
match unstruck. 

"Must be somebody camped down there," I haz- 
arded. 

"A camp-fire would hardly flash and die out like 
that, Sarge," he answered thoughtfully. "At least, 
not an ordinary one. There are some folk in this 
country, you know, who manifest a very retiring 
disposition at times. That looks to me like a blind 
fire or a signal. Let*s wait a minute." 

We sat there on our horses, grouped close to- 
gether, a minute that lengthened to five ; then Mac- 
Rae broke off in the middle of a sentence as the 
flare leaped up, flickered an instant, and was blotted 
out again. I could have sworn I heard a cry, and 



RAW GOLD 33 



one of my men spoke in a tone that assured me my 
imagination had not been playing a trick. 

"Hear that?" he asked eagerly. "Somebody 
hollered down there." 

"I don't much like that," MacRae said, in a low 
tone. "I have a hunch that something crooked is 
going on, and I reckon I'll go down and see what 
that fire means. You fellows better go a little far- 
ther and wait for me." 

"Not on your life," I protested. "You might run 
into most any kind of formation. We'll go in a 
bunch, if we go at all." 

"Might be Injuns," Bruce Haggin put in. "An', 
anyhow, whatever play comes up, four men's a heap 
better'n one. If you're bound t' mix in, why, lead 
the way. I'm kinda curious about what's down 
there m'self." 

So near to the post it was that MacRae almost 
knew the feel of the ground underfoot. He led us 
a hundred yards along the rim of the bank and 
stopped again. 

'This is as good a place as any, "But you'll have 



<(' 



34 RAW GOLD 



to get down and lead your horses," he warned. 

*'It's a devil of a scramble from here to the bottom." ! 

We dismounted, and speedily found that MacRae ; 
hadn't exaggerated the evil qualities of that descent. 

If there had been boulders on that hillside the noise \ 
of our coming would have alarmed a deaf man; 

but the soft dirt and slippery grass gave out no i 

sound, though we slid and tumbled and dug in our j 

heels for a foothold till the sweat streamed down I 

our cheeks. I 

i 

At the bottom we mounted again and followed ; 

i 

MacRae in a cautious file around clumps of willow ' 

and rustling quaking-asp to the place where the i 

i 

blaze should have shown. But no glint of fire ] 

appeared in any direction; the coulee-bottom lay "\ 

more dark and silent, if that were possible, than the ; 

i 

gloomy hills above. Perplexed, MacRae halted, | 

and we bunched together, whispering, each of us i 

straining his eyes and ears to catch some sight or > 

sound of life in that black, ghostly quiet. We 

might have concluded that our senses had been , 

playing pranks at our expense, that the flame we ; 



RAW GOLD 35 



had seen from the ridge was purely an imaginary 
thing, but for the rank, unmistakable odor of 
burning wood — a smell no man bred in a land of 
camp-fires can mistake. We were near it, wherever 
it was, but how near we had no means of knowing. 

After a bit of waiting, Mac decided that the 
smoke was floating from a certain direction, and 
we began to edge carefully that way. Presently we 
circled a clump of brush, to come near riding right 
into a banked fire, barely visible, even at short 
range, under its covering of earth. A dimly out- 
lined bulk lay beside it, and leaning over in our 
saddles, the faint glow of the coals revealed a man's 
body, half stripped of its clothing, and — oh, well, 
such things are so utterly devilish you wouldn't 
credit it. It's bad enough to kill, even when it's' 
necessary; but I never could understand how a. 
white man could take a leaf out of the Indian's' 
torture-book. 

The fire had been heaped over with earth — to 
screen it from prying eyes, I suppose, while the 
good work went on. We got off our horses and 



36 RAW GOLD 



stooped over the man, forgetting for the moment 
that danger might lurk in the surrounding thicket. 
Mac swore under his breath when he bent and 
peered keenly at the man's face; then he straight- 
ened up and kicked a part of the clay covering 
from the smoldering embers. As the bright glow 
of a little cascade of sparks pierced the darkness, a 
voice in our rear called sharply: "Hands up!" and 
we swung round to behold two masked faces re- 
garding us from behind steadily held Winchesters. 
The very suddenness of the hold-up made it a 
complete success. Apart, and moving, we might 
have scattered in the brush like young quail, and so 
have been able to give the gentlemen a hard run 
for the money. But we were bunched together, 
shocked out of all caution, staring at the pitiful 
figure at our feet when MacRae unmasked the fire, 
and the flare of it surrounded us with a yellow 
nimbus that made us fair marks for a gun. With 
that dazzling light in our eyes and those ugly- 
looking customers at the business end of the guns, 
it would have been out and out suicide to reach for 



RAW GOLD 37 



a six-shooter. For at that period in Northwestern 
history, when a man had the drop on you under such 
conditions, there was absolutely no question of what 
would happen if you made a suspicious move. We 
were fairly caught, and there was nothing to do 
but elevate our digits and paw the air as com- 
manded. 

It took one of those Western Turpins about a min- 
ute to relieve us of our artillery, after which he 
silently proceeded to lead our horses out of sight. 
When he did that I began to hope the horses were 
all they wanted, that they had no knowledge of the 
money I carried ; but my hopes died an early death, 
for he was back in a moment, and the man behind 
the gun indicated me with a motion of the Win- 
chester. 

"That long, stoop-shouldered gazabo's got the 
stuff on him," he growled. 

There was half a second when I entertained a 
wild notion of getting fractious. A fellow hates 
to make a bungle of the first decent trust he's had 
in a long time; but I was in a tight place, and I 



38 RAW GOLD 



couldn't figure where I'd delay giving up beyond 
the length of time it would take the gentleman 
with the Winchester to drill me. Under the cir- 
cumstances it didn't take long to decide that it was 
a heap better all around to be robbed alive than 
dead — they'd get the money anyway, and if I got 
myself shot up to no purpose that would spoil all 
chance of getting back at them later. 

The silent partner wasted no time in fruitless 
search of my person. He seemed to know right 
where to look, which was another feature of the 
play that I didn't sabe at the time. He reached 
down inside my shirt, with a none too gentle hand, 
and relieved me of the belt that held the money. 
Then the pair of them backed up, still covering us, 
and faded away in the gloom. 



CHAPTER IV. 

A TALE HALF TOLD. 

WHEN they were gone we let our hands 
down to their natural level and drew a 
long breath. 

"We appear to have got considerably the worst 
of this transaction," I observed. "The La Pere 
outfit is shy something like ten thousand dollars — 
we're afoot, minus everything but cigarette ma- 
terial. It's a wonder they didn't take that, too. A 
damn good stroke of business, all right," I finished, 
feeling mighty sore at myself. When it was too 
late, I could think of half a dozen ways we might 
have avoided getting held up. 

*T got you into it, too," MacRae said calmly. 
"But don't get excited and run on the rope this early 
in the game, Sarge; you'll only throw yourself. 
Brace up. We've been in worse holes before." 
Never a word of what it might mean to him; never 



40 RAW GOLD 



even hinted that the high moguls at Fort Walsh 
were more than likely to put him on the rack for 
letting any such lawless work be carried out suc- 
cessfully, in his own district. A Mounted Police- 
man can make no excuses for letting a tough cus- 
tomer slip through his fingers ; the only way he can 
escape censure is to be brought in feet first. 

He motioned to the poor devil lying by the fire. 

"Look at him, Sarge,'* he went on, in a different 
tone. "You always had a pretty good memory for 
faces. So have I, for that matter, but — go ahead — 
look." 

I bent over the man, looked closely at the still 
features, dropped on one knee and turned his face 
toward the firelight to make sure. I recognized 
him instantly, and I knew that MacRae had no 
doubts of his identity, for each of us had broken 
bread and slept in the same blankets with that quiet 
figure. 

"It's Rutter," I whispered, and MacRae nodded 
silently. 

"He's done for, too — no, by God, he isn't!" I 



RAW GOLD 41 

cried, and shrank involuntarily, for his eyeballs 
rolled till only the whites showed in a way that 
made me shudder. "He's not dead, yet, Mac!" 

"One of you fellows get some water," Mac com- 
manded. He squatted beside me, holding up Rut- 
ter's head. In a minute Bruce was back with his 
hat full of water from the creek that whimpered 
just beyond the willow patch. I peeled off my coat 
and spread it over the marred limbs, and Bruce held 
the water so that I could dip in my hand and 
sprinkle Rutter's face. After a little his mouth be- 
gan to twitch. Queer gurgling sounds issued from 
his throat. He moved his head slightly, looking 
from me to MacRae. Presently he recognized us 
both ; his face brightened. 

"Gimme a drink," he whispered huskily. 

Mac propped him up so that he could sip from 
the hat. He came near going off again, but rallied, 
and In a second or two his lips framed a question : 

"Did yuh— get 'em?" 

I shook my head. "You might say that they got 
us," I answered. 



42 RAW GOLD 



"Who were they, Hans?'* MacRae questioned 
eagerly. "And why did they do this to you ? We'll 
make them sweat blood for this night's work. Did 
you know them? Tell us if you can." 

"No," Rutter spoke with a great effort. Each 
sentence came as if torn piecemeal from his un- 
wilhng tongue; short, jerky phrases, conceived in 
pain and delivered in agony. "We — me'n Hank 
Rowan — comin' from the North — made a stake on 
the Peace. They started it — at the Stone — yuh 
know — Writin'-Stone. Hank an' me — you'll find 
Hank in the cottonwoods — Stony Crossin'. I tried 
— tried t' make Walsh. Two of 'em — masked — 
tried t' make me tell — tell 'em — where we made the 
cache. I'm — I'm done — I guess. The dust, it's — 
it's — a-a-ah '' 

The gnarled hands shut up into clenched fists, 
and the feeble voice trailed off in an agonized 
moan. 

I laved his pain-twisted face with the cool water 
and let a few drops trickle into his open mouth. 
He gasped a few times, then, gathering strength 



RAW GOLD 43 



again, went on with that horrible spasmodic reci- 
tation. 

"They were after us — a long time. Lyn's at 
Walsh. There's a — a good stake. Get it — for her. 
It's cached — under the Stone — yuh know — ^Writin'- 
Stone. Three sacks. That's what — they wanted. 
You'll — you'll — on the rock above — marked — gold 
• — raw gold — that's it — ^gold — raw gold — Mac — I 
want — I want " 

That was all. The tense muscles relaxed. His 
head fell back limp on MacRae's arm, and the rest 
of the message went with the game old Dutchman 
across the big divide. We laid him down gently, 
folded his arms on his breast, and for a moment 
held our peace in tribute to his passing. 

MacRae was first to speak. 

"There's a lot back of this that I can't under- 
stand," he said, more to himself than to the rest of 
us. "It beats me why these two old cowmen should 
be here in this country, tangled up with buried gold- 
dust, and being hunted like beasts for its possession. 
Old Hans was certainly in his right mind or he 



44 RAW GOLD 



wouldn't have known us; and if he told us right, 
Hank Rowan has been murdered too. If Lyn is at 
Walsh, she may be able to shed some light on this. 
But I'll swear I feel like a man groping in a dark 
room." 

"If Lyn is at Walsh," I asserted stoutly, "she got 
there since I left this morning. I was there two 
days, and I wasn't in the background by any means ; 
and she's the sort of girl that isn't backward about 
hailing a friend. We know one thing — the men 
that killed Rutter are the ones that held us up, and 
got off with that money of mine. And say — how 
did those fellows know I had that money and where 
I was carrying it? Good Lord! it sounds like the 
plot of a dime novel." 

It was a stubborn riddle for us to try and read. 
And our surroundings at that particular moment 
were not the most favorable to coherent thought or 
plausible theory-building. When a man has been 
robbed at the point of a gun, and set afoot in the 
heart of an unpeopled waste, with a dead man and 
a dying fire for company, his nerves are apt to get a 



RAW GOLD 45 



little bit on edge. Things that wouldn't tax your 
fortitude in daylight look like the works of the devil 
when you have to face them in the black hours of 
the night. None of us are so far removed from 
savagery that a few grains of superstition don't lurk 
in our souls, all ready to bob up if the setting is 
appropriate. If it should ever be my lot to take the 
Long Trail at short notice, I hope it will be under 
a blue sky and a blazing sun. It was hard to be 
philosophic, or even decently calm, standing there 
in the sickly glow of the fading coals with old Hans 
mutely reminding us that life is a tenuous thread, 
easily snipped. 

A little night breeze rustling the willows about 
us brought into my mind the fact that our masked 
acquaintances could easily sneak up and pot us if, 
as an afterthought, they decided to do a really 
workmanlike job. Doubt it ? Wasn't the dead man 
stretched in the shadow convincing proof of their 
capacity for pure devilishness ? Read the history of 
those days along the line, and you'll turn some red 
pages. There were no half-way measures in the 



46 RAW GOLD 



code of an outlaw then; the pair who held us up 
would have taken our lives as nonchalantly as they 
relieved us of our material possessions had we 
proved in the least degree troublesome. 

I hinted what was in my mind to MacRae, and 
when he agreed that it was a possible contingency, 
we filed out of the treacherous light and squatted in 
the edge of a quaking-asp grove where we couldn't 
be seen, and where a coyote, much less a man, 
couldn't steal up on us without the crackle of dry 
brush betraying him. 

"What do you think you'll do, Sarge?" Mac 
whispered to me, while we sat there undecided as to 
our next move. "Go on to Benton, or stay here 
on the chance of breaking even?" 

"I've got to stick; it's the only thing I can do," 
I growled back. "I've been sure enough whip- 
sawed this deal, but I'm still in the game, and when 
it comes to calling the last turn I'll be there with a 
stack of blues. How in hell can I show my face 
in Benton while some other fellow is packing the 
money La Pere trusted me to bring back? If I can 



RAW GOLD 47 



rustle horses I'll send these two boys on home, with 
a note to the old man explaining how the play came 
np. If those jaspers flash any part of the roll in 
the Territory before snowfall, I'll get them. I've 
got to get them, to square myself.'* 

"That would be my idea, if I were in your place," 
he answered. "If they're like the average run of 
men that turn a trick of that kind, they'll give them- 
selves away in the long run. It's lucky, in a way, 
that you had paper money instead of gold; the big 
bills will be their downfall if they undertake to 
spend them in this country — and if old Hans had it 
straight, they're not going to pull out with a measly 
ten thousand dollars. It's an ugly mess, and liable 
to be worse before it's cleaned up. If there is a 
stake like that cached around the Stone, these land 
pirates will camp mighty close on the trail of any- 
body that goes looking for it. And it won't be any 
Sunday-school picnic dealing with them — they 
showed a strong hand there," he motioned to the 
place where Rutter lay. 

The best thing we can do," he continued, "is to 



d' 



48 RAW GOLD 



drag it for Pend d' Oreille, afoot. We have two 
extra horses there. We can get a little sleep and 
move early in the morning. I'll have to report this 
thing in person at Walsh, but before I do I want to 
know if Hank Rowan was really killed at Stony 
Crossing. If we find him there as Rutter.said, you 
can gamble that trouble has camped in our door- 
yard for a lengthy sta3\ And it might be a good 
idea for you to give your men a gentle hint to keep 
their mouths closed about this affair — all of it. 
There's a slim chance at the best of finding that 
gold, even if it's there, and it won't help us nor the 
rest of the Force to run down the men who held us 
up, if everybody on both sides of the line gets to 
talking about it." 

"I'll tell them," I agreed. "I reckon you have the 
right idea. I think it's a. cinch that if we land the 
men that set us afoot and got away with the money, 
we'll have the cold-blooded brutes that put Hans 
Rutter's light out. But I don't sabe, Mac, why those 
old-timers should be mixed into a deal of this kind. 
Their cattle and range on the Canadian had a gold- 



RAW GOLD 49 



mine beat to death for money-making; old men like 
them don't jump two thousand miles from home 
without mighty strong reasons." 

"They probably had, if we only knew," MacRae 
muttered. "I reckon we'd better start; we can't do 
any good here." 

Mac led the way. The four of us slipped through 
the brushy bottom as silently as men unaccustomed 
to walking might go, for we had no hankering, un- 
armed as we were, to bring those red-handed ma- 
rauders after us again, if they happened to be lurk- 
ing in that canyon. Rutter's body we had no choice 
but to leave undisturbed by the blackening fire. In 
the morning we would come back and bury him, 
but for that night— well, he was beyond any man's 
power to aid or injure, lying there alone in the dark. 




CHAPTER V. 

MOUNTED AGAINc 

'E stumbled along, close up, for the thick- 
piled clouds still hung their light-obscur- 
ing banners over the sky. Three yards 
apart we became invisible to each other. I followed 
behind MacRae more or less mechanically, though 
I was, in a way, acutely conscious of the necessity 
for stealthy going, one part of my mind busy turn- 
ing over the quick march of events and guessing 
haphazard at the future. 

Striding along in this mental semi-detachment 
from the business in hand, some three hundred 
yards down the coulee I tripped over a fallen cotton- 
wood and drove the point of a projecting limb clean 
through the upper of my boot and into the calf of 
my leg — not a disabling wound, but one that lacked 
nothing in the way of pain. The others stopped 
while I pulled out the snag, which had broken off 



RAW GOLD 5f 



the trunk, and while I was about this a familiar 
clattering noise uprose near-by. Ever hear a horse 
shake himself, like a water-spaniel fresh from a dip, 
when he has been tied for a long time in one place 
with the dead weight of a heavy stock saddle on his 
back? There is a little by-play of grunting and 
clearing of nostrils, then the slap of skirts and 
strings and stirrup-leathers — a man never forgets 
or mistakes the sound of it, if he has ever slept in 
a round-up camp with a dozen restless night-horses 
saddled and tied to a wagon twenty feet from his 
bed. But it made us jump, welling up out of the 
dark so unexpectedly and so near. 

"Saddle-horse — tied," Mac tersely commented. 
iWe squatted in the long grass and buck-brush, lis- 
tening, and a few seconds later heard a horse snort 
distinctly. This sound was immediately followed 
by the steady beat of an impatient forefoot. 

"Over yonder," I said. "And there's more than 
one, I think. Let's investigate this. And we'd 
better not separate." 

Fifty yards to the left we struck a cottonwood 



52 RAW GOLD 



grove, and in the outer edge of it loomed the vague 
outhne of a horse — when we were almost within 
reaching-distance of him. I ran my hand over the 
saddle and knew it instantly for Bruce Haggin's rig. 
A half-minute of quiet prowling revealed our full 
quota of livestock, even to the pack-horse that bore 
our beds and grub, each one tied hard and fast to a 
tree. Also our six-shooters reposed in their scab- 
bards, the four belts hooked over the horn of Mac- 
Rae's saddle. 

Maybe it didn't feel good to be on the hurricane 
deck of a good horse once more! Whenever I have 
to walk any distance, I can always understand why 
a horse-thief yields to temptation and finally be- 
comes confirmed in his habit. It was rather an odd 
thing for those outlaws to leave everything, even 
to our guns, but I figured — and time proved the 
correctness of my arithmetic — that they had bigger 
iish to fry. 

Once in the saddle, witH the comfortable weight 
of a cartridge-belt around each man's middle, we 
experienced a revulsion of feeling. Primed for 



RAW GOLD 53 

I  , 

trouble if we could jump it out of the brush, we 
rode the bottom for half an hour. But our men 
were gone. At least, we could not locate them. So 
we took to the upland again and loped toward Pend 
d' Oreille. 

'^I've been thinking it isn't so strange — those old 
fellows being in this country — after all," Mac 
suddenly began, as we slowed our horses down to 
take a hiil. "I didn't remember at first, but two 
years ago, just after I joined the Force, I ran across 
a bullwhacker on the Whoop Up trail, and he told 
me that the Double R had closed out. He said 
Hank had got into a ruction with Dick Feltz — you 
recollect there was considerable feeling between 
them in our time down there — and killed him one 
day at Fort Worth. Feltz had some folks that took 
it up, and Hank had to spend a barrel of money to 
come clear. That, and a range war that grew out 
of the killing, and some kind of a business deal just 
about broke them. That's the way this fellow had 
it ; said a trail-boss told him at Ogalalla that spring. 
I didn't take much stock in the yarn at the time. 



54 RAW GOLD 



but I'm beginning to think he had it straight. You 
didn't hear anything about it?'* 

"Not a word; it's news to me," I said. "When 
I left that country I kept moving north all the time. 
The last three years I've been in the Judith Basin, 
and southern outfits haven't begun to come in there 
yet. So I haven't had much chance to hear from 
that part of the world. But I'm framing up my 
think-works so I won't be surprised at anything I 
see or hear after to-night. How long since you left 
that country, Mac?" 

"Next spring after you did," he answered. "If 
they did go broke, I can sabe their being here. 
Rutter said, you know, that they'd made a stake on 
the Peace — Peace River, I suppose he meant. 
There's been a lot of placer mining in that north 
country the last three or four years. They might 
have been up there and struck it good and plenty. 
They made their start in the cow business off a; 
placer in California, you know." 

I knew that, for Rowan often spoke of it. And 
granting that we had surmised rightly, it required 



RAW GOLD 55 



no vivid imagination to picture what might happen 
to men crossing those wide prairies with a fortune 
in yellow dust. But my imagination was hardly 
equal to the task of reconciling the fact that the 
evil pair had been busy at other deviltry and yet 
knew I carried a large sum of money and where it 
was concealed about my person. That brought me 
back to something else Rutter had told us; some- 
thing that I knew — or thought I knew — touched 
MacRae very closely. 

"Hans said Lyn was at Walsh," I remarked. "I 
don't think she was there, this morning. But she 
might be due to arrive there. Hang it all, Mac, 
what the dickens chased you away from the Cana- 
dian?" 

"Looking back, I can't just say what it was," 
he presently replied, in a hard, matter-of-fact tone. 
"You see, one's feelings can change, Sarge. It 
looks different to me now than it did then. I reckon 
I could have written essays on the futility of senti- 
ment, and the damned silliness of a man who thinks 
he cares for a woman. But I'm past that stage. 



56 RAW GOLD 



And so I can't say for sure just how it was or why. 
Something came up between me and Lyn — and I 
drifted, and kept drifting. Went through Colorado, 
Wyoming, Montana ; finally rambled here, and went 
into the Force because — well, because a man with 
anything to him can go to the top. A man must 
play at something, and this looked like a good 
game." 

There was a note of something that I'd never 
heard in MacRae's voice before; neither bitterness 
nor anger nor sorrow nor lonesomeness, and yet 
there was a hint of each, but so slight, so elusive I 
couldn't grasp it. I remembered that the last sen- 
tence MacRae had spoken to me in the South was a 
message to Lyn Rowan, a message that I never had 
the pleasure of delivering, for my hasty flitting took 
me out other trails than the one that led to the home 
ranch. And so they had parted — gone different 
ways — probably in anger. Well, that's only another 
example of the average human's cussedness. Lyn 
could be just as haughty as she was sweet and 
gracious, which was natural enough, seeing she'd 



RAW GOLD 57 



ruled a cattle king and all his sunburned riders 
since she was big enough to toddle alone; and Gor- 
don MacRae wasn't the sort of man who would 
come to heel at any woman's bidding — at least, he 
wasn't in the old days. Oh, I could understand 
how it happened, all right. Each of them was chuck 
full of that dubious sort of pride that has busted 
up more than one love-fiesta. 

Neither of us spoke again, and at length the squat 
log buildings of Pend d' Oreille loomed ahead of us 
in the night. Tired and hungry, we stabled our 
horses, ate a bite, and rolled into bed. 



CHAPTER VI. 

STONY CROSSING. 

^ ^r-Tpi HERE'S Stony Crossing, Sarge; and over 
J[ yonder, at the west end of that blue 
ridge, is Writing-on-the-Stone." 

At the foot of the long slope on which we stood 
Milk River glinted in the sunshine, deceptively, 
beautiful — a shining example of the truth of that 
old saw about distance lending enchantment, for, 
looking down on the placid stream slipping smoothly 
along between fringes of scrubby timber, one would 
never guess that miles and miles of hungry quick- 
sands lined the river-edge, an unseen trap for the 
feet of the unwary. 

Stony Crossing I could see, even without Mac's 
guiding finger. The Whoop Up trail, a brown 
streak against the vivid upland green, dipped down 
the hillside to our right, down to the sage-grown 
Bat, and into the river by the great boulders that 



RAW GOLD 59' 



gave the ford its name. The blue ridge up the river 
I gave scant heed to; the Writing-Stone was only ! 

a name Jo me, for I'd never seen the place. My .1 

attention was all for the scene at hand. The patch \ 

of soft green that I knew for the cottonwoods Rut- ' 

ter had spoken of drew my roving gaze whether I j 

would or no. I have ridden on pleasanter missions 1 

than the one that took us to Stony Crossing that 
day. ! 

"It's sure tough," I voiced a thought that had ' 

been running in my mind all morning, "to think 
that a good old fellow like Hank Rowan has been ! 

murdered and left to rot on the prairie like a skinned I 

buffalo. Hanged if I can make myself really be- I 

lieve we'll find him down there." \ 

"The more I think of it, the more Fm inclined to 
believe that we will," MacRae answered evenly. 
"We'll know beyond a doubt in the next hour. So 
:we might as well go on." 

If I hadn't known him so well I might have j 

thought he didn't care a damn what we found at  

i 

Stony Crossing, that he was as unmoved as the two | 



60 RAW GOLD 



case-hardened troopers who rode with us. But 
that repression was just as natural to him as emo- 
tional flare-ups are to some. Whatever he felt he 
usually kept bottled up inside, no matter how it 
hurt. I never saw him fly to pieces over anything. 
He was something of an anomaly to me, when I 
first knew him. I was always so prone to do and 
say things according to impulse that I thought him 
cold-blooded, a man without any particular feeling 
except a certain pride in holding his own among 
his fellows. 

But I revised my opinion when I came to know 
him better. Under the surface he was sensitive as 
a girl ; one could wound him with a word or a look. 
Paradoxically, he was absolutely cold-blooded to- 
ward a declared enemy. He would fight fair, but 
without mercy. Side by side with the sensitive soul 
of him, and hidden always under an impassive mask 
of self-control, lay the battling spirit, an indomitable 
fighting streak ; it cropped out in a cool, calculating 
manner of taking desperate chances when the sleep- 
ing devil in him was roused. He would side-step 



RAW GOLD 61 



trouble — and one met the weeping damsel at many- 
turns of the road in those raw days — if he could do 
it without loss of self-respect; but the man who 
stirred him up needlessly, or crowded him into re- 
taliation, always regretted it — when he had time to 
indulge in vain regrets. And you can bet your 
last, lone peso, and consider it won, that MacRae 
meant every word when he said to old Hans Rutter : 
"We'll make them sweat blood for this." 

When we got down into the bottom Mac turned 
aside to the deep-worn trail and glanced sharply- 
down at the ruts. The dust in them lay smooth, 
and the hoof -marks that showed were old and dim. 

"I wondered if there had been any freight teams 
pass lately," he explained. "But there hasn't — not 
for a day or two, anyway. Let's look in the tim- 
ber." 

That was a long time ago, and since then I have 
seen much of life and death in many countries, but 
I can recall as distinctly as if it were yesterday the 
grim sight that met us when we rode in among the 
whispering cottonwoods. We found Hank Rowan 



62 RAW GOLD 



in a little open place, where rifts of sunlight filtered 
through the tangled branches; one yellow bar, full 
of quivering motes, rested on the wide-open eyes and 
mouth, tinting the set features the ghastly color of 
a plaster cast. The horse he had ridden lay dead 
across his legs, and just beyond, a crumpled heap 
against the base of a tree, was the carcass of a mule, 
half-hidden under a bulky pack. The thing that 
sickened me, that stirs me even yet, was a circular, 
red patch that crowned his head where should have 
been thick, iron-gray hair. 

"The damned hounds!" MacRae muttered. 
"They tried to make it look like an Indian job." 

The pack-ropes had been cut and the pack 
searched. In the same manner they had gone 
through his pockets and scattered a few papers and 
letters on the ground. These we gathered carefully 
together, against the time of meeting Lyn, and then 
• — for time pressed, and a dead man, though he may 
be your friend and his passing a sorrow, is out of 
the game forever — we dragged him from beneath 
the dead horse, wrapped him in the canvas pack- 



RAW GOLD 63 



cover, and buried him in the soft leaf -mold where 
he lay, as we had buried his lifetime partner early 
in the morning. When we had finished, MacRae 
ordered his two troopers back to Pend d' Oreille, 
and we mounted our horses and turned their heads 
toward Fort Walsh. 

It is seventy miles in an air-line from Stony 
Crossing to the fort. That night we laid out, sleep- 
ing without hardship in a dry buffalo-wallow, and 
noon of the next day brought us to Walsh, a huddle 
of log buildings clustering around a tall pole from 
which fluttered the union jack. 

Off to one side of the fort a bunch of work-bulls 
fed peacefully. Down in the creek bottom a tent 
or two flapped in the mid-day breeze, and in their 
neighborhood uprose the smoke of half a dozen 
dinner fires. By the post storeroom, waiting their 
turn to unload, was ranged a line of the tarpaulin- 
covered wagons, wheeled galleons of the plains, that 
brought food and raiment to the Northwest before 
the coming of steam and steel. 

"That looks to me like Baker's outfit, from Ben- 



64 RAW GOLD 



ton," I said to MacRae, as we swung off our horses 
before the building in which the officer of the day 
held forth. "They must have come by way of Assi- 
niboine." 

"Probably," Mac answered. "And over yonder^s 
the paymaster's train. At least, he's due, and I 
can't account for a bunch of horses in charge of a 
buck trooper any other way." 

We clanked into the ante-room — that's what I 
call it, anyway. It happened that I didn't stay 
around those police posts long enough to get fa- 
miliar with the technical terms for everything. Not 
that they wouldn't have welcomed my presence; 
faith, their desire for my company was only equaled 
by my reluctance to accept their hospitality. There 
was a while when I developed a marvelous capacity 
for dodging invitations to Fort Walsh. And if the 
men in scarlet had been a bit swifter, or I a little 
slower, I'd have had ample leisure to observe life 
in the Force from the inside — of the guardhouse. 
As I said, we went inro the ante-room, and there I 
got my first peep at the divinity that doth hedge— 



RAW GOLD 65 



not a king, but a commissioned officer in Her Ma- 
jesty's N. W. M. P. An orderly held us up, and 
when MacRae had convinced him that our business 
was urgent, and not for his ears, he graciously al- 
lowed us to enter the Presence — who proved to be a 
heavy-set person with sandy, mutton-chop whiskers 
set bias on a vacuous, round, florid countenance. 
His braid-trimmed uniform was cut to fit him like 
the skin of an exceedingly well-stuffed sausage, and 
from his comfortable seat behind a flat-topped desk 
he gazed upon us with the wisdom of a tree-full of 
owls and the dignity of a stage emperor. 

MacRae's heels clicked together and his right 
hand went up in the stiff military salute. The red- 
faced one acknowledged it by a barely perceptible 
flip of a fat paw, then put a little extra stiffening 
into his spinal column and growled, in a voice that 
seemed to come booming up from the region of his 
diaphragm, "Pro-ceed." 

MacRae proceeded. But he didn't get very far. 
In fact, he'd barely articulated, *I have to report, 
sir, that — •■ — ' when the human sausage bethought 



66 RAW GOLD 



himself of something more important, and held up 
one hand for silence. He produced a watch and 
studied it frowningly, then dismissed us and the 
recital of our troubles with a ponderous gesture. 

"Repawt again," he rumbled, away down in his 
chest cavity, "at hawf — pawst — one." 

*'Yes, sir," MacRae saluted again, and we with- 
drew. 

**A beautiful specimen; a man of great force," I 
unburdened myself when we got outside. "Have 
you many like him? I'd admire to see him cavort- 
ing around on the pinnacles after horse-thieves or 
whisky-runners or a bunch of bad Indians. A 
peaceable citizen would sure do well on the other 
side of the line if sheriffs and marshals took a lay- 
off to feed themselves when a man was in the middle 
of his complaint. How long do you suppose it will 
take that fat slob to get a squad of these soldier- 
policemen on the trail of that ten thousand?" 

MacRae laughed dryly. "Old Dobson is harm- 
less, all right, so far as hunting outlaws is con- 
cerned. But he doesn't cut much figure around 



RAW GOLD 67 



here, one way or the other; no more than two or 
three other 'haw-haw' Enghshmen who got com- 
missions in the Force on the strength of their family 
connections. Lessard — the major in charge — is the 
brains of the post He gets out and does things 
while these fatheads stay in quarters and untangle 
red tape. Personally, I don't like Lessard — he's a 
damned autocrat. But he's the man to whip this 
unorganized country into shape. I imagine he'll 
paw up the earth when he hears our story." 

We mounted and rode to the stables. When we'd 
unsaddled and put up our horses, Mac led the way 
toward a row of small, whitewashed cabins set off 
by themselves, equidistant from barrack and officers' 
row. 

"Sometimes I eat with the sergeants' mess," Mac 
said. **But generally I camp with 'Bat' Perkins 
when I drop in here. Bat's an ex-stockhand like 
ourselves, and we'll be as welcome as payday. And 
he'll know if Lyn Rowan has come to Walsh." 

I wasn't in shape, financially, to have any choice 
in the matter of a stopping-place. Forty or fifty 



68 RAW GOLD 



dollars of expense money covered the loose cash in 
my pockets when I left Walsh for Benton; and, 
while I may have neglected to mention the fact, 
those two coin-collectors didn't overlook the small 
change when they held me up for La Pere's roll. 
There was a sort of sheebang — you couldn't call it 
a hotel if you had any regard for the truth — on the 
outskirts of Walsh, for the accommodation of way- 
farers without a camp-outfit, but most of the time 
you couldn't get anything fit to eat there. So I was 
mighty glad to hear about Bat Perkins. 



CHAPTER VII. I 



THIRTY DAYS IN IRONS ! 

IT transpired, however, that before we reached Bat 
Perkins' cabin Mac got an unexpected answer 
to one of the questions he intended to ask. As 
we turned the corner of a rambHng log house, 
which, from its pretentiousness, I judged must 
house some Mounted Police dignitary, we came face 
to face with a tall, keen-featured man in Police uni- 
form, and a girl. Even though Rutter had declared 
she would be at Walsh, I wasn't prepared to believe 
it was Lyn Rowan. Sometimes five years will work 
a wonderful change in a woman; or is it that time 
and distance work some subtle transition in one's 
recollection? She didn't give me much time to in- 
dulge in guesswork, though. While I wondered, 
'for an instant, if there could by any possibility be 
another woman on God's footstool with quite the 
same tilt to her head, the same heavy coils of tawny 
hair and unfathomable eyes that always met your 



70 RAW GOLD 



own so frankly, she recognized the pair of us; 
though MacRae in uniform must have puzzled her 
for an instant. 

"Gordon — and Sarge Flood ! Where in the world 

did you come from ? And — and " She stopped 

rather suddenly, a bit embarrassed. I knew just as 
well as if she had spoken the words, that she had 
been on the point of asking him what he was doing 
in the yellow-striped breeches and scarlet jacket of 
a Mounted Policeman. Whatever had parted them, 
she hadn't held it against him. There was an inde- 
finable something in the way she spoke his name and 
looked at him that told me there was still a soft spot 
in her heart for the high-headed beggar by my side. 

But MacRae — while I was wise to the fact that he 
was the only friend I had in that country, and the 
sort of friend that sticks closer than a brother, I 
experienced a sincere desire to beat him over the 
noodle with my gun and thereby knock a little of 
the stiffness out of his neck — simply saluted the 
officer, tipped his hat to her, and passed on. I 
didn't sabe the play, and when I saw the red flash 



RAW GOLD 71 



up into her face it made me hot, and there followed' 
a few seconds when I took a very uncharitable view 
of Mr. Gordon MacRae's distant manner. ' ^1 

The fellow with her, I noticed, seemed to draw 
himself up very stiff and dignified when she stopped 
and spoke to us ; and the look with which he favored 
MacRae was a peculiar one. It was simply a vag- 
rant expression, but as it flitted over his face it 
lacked nothing in the way of surprised disapproval; 
I might go farther and say it was malignant — the 
kind of look that makes a man feel like reaching 
for a weapon. At least, that's the impression it 
made on me. 

"I might fire that question back at you, Miss 
Rowan," I replied. "We're both a long way from 
the home range. I was here a day or two ago. 
How did you manage to keep out of sight— HDr have 
you just got in?" 

"Yesterday, only," she returned. "We — you re- 
member old Mammy Thomas, don't you? — came 
over from Benton with the Baker freight outfit. I 
expect to meet dad here, in a few days." 



72 RAW GOLD 



l 



Her last sentence froze the words that were all 
ready to slip off the end of my tongue, and made 
my grouch against MacRae crystallize into a feeling 
akin to anger. Why couldn't the beggar stand his 
ground and deliver the ugly tidings himself ? That 
bunch of cottonwoods with the new-mad^ grave 
close by the dead horses seemed to rise up between 
us, and I became speechless. I hadn't the nerve to 
stand there and tell her she'd never see her father 
again this side of the pearly gates. Not I. That 
was a job for somebody who could put his arms 
around her and kiss the tears away from her eyes. 
.Unless I read her wrong, there was only one man 
who could make it easier for her if he were by, and 
he was walking away as if it were none of his 
concern. 

Something of this must have shown in my face, 
for she was beginning to regard me curiously. I 
gathered my scattered wits and started to make 
some attempt at conversation, but the man with the 
shoulder-straps forestalled me. 

"Really, we must go. Miss Rowan, or we shall 



RAW GOLD 73 



be late for luncheon," he drawled. The insolent 
tone of him was like having one's face slapped, and 
it didn't pass over Lyn's head by any means. I 
thought to myself that if he had set out to entrench 
himself in her good graces, he was taking the poor- 
est of all methods to accomplish that desirable end. 

*'Just a moment, major," she said. *'Are you 
going to be here any length of time, Sarge?" 

"A day or so," I responded shortly. I didn't 
feel overly cheerful with all that bad news simmer- 
ing in my brain-pan, and in addition I had conceived 
a full-grown dislike for the *'major" and his I-am- 
superior-to-you attitude. 

"Then come and see me this afternoon if you 
can. I'm staying with Mrs. Stone. Don't forget, 
now — I have a thousand things I want to talk about. 
Good-bye." And she smiled and turned away with 
the uniformed snob by her side. 

MacRae had loitered purposely, and I overtook 
him in a few rods. 

"Well," I blurted out, as near angry as I ever 
got at MacRae in all the years I'd known him, 



74 RAW GOLD 



"you're a high-headed cuss, confound you ! Is it a 
part of your new philosophy of Hfe to turn your 
back on every one that you ever cared anything 
for?" 

He shrugged his shoulders tolerantly. "What 
did you expect of me?" 

"You might have — oh, well, I suppose you'll go 
your own gait, regardless," I sputtered. "That's 
your privilege. But I don't see how you had the 
nerve to pass her up that way. Especially since that 
Stony Crossing deal." 

Mac took a dozen steps before he answered me. 

"You don't understand the lay of things, Sarge,'^ 
he said, rather hesitatingly. "If I have the situa- 
tion sized up right, Lyn is practically alone here, 
and things are going to look pretty black to her 
when she learns what has happened. Hank never 
had anything much to do with his people. I doubt 
if Lyn has even a speaking acquaintance with her 
nearest kin. She has friends in the South — plenty 
of them who'd be more than glad to do as much for 
her as you or I. But we're a long way from the 



RAW GOLD 75 



Canadian River, now. And so if she has made 
friends among the official set here, it's up to me to 
stand back — until that cache is found, anyway." 

"Then you're not going to try and see her, and 
tell her about this thing yourself?" I asked. 

*'I can't," he replied impatiently. "You'll have 
to do that, Sarge. Hang it, can't you see where I 
stand? The mere fact that Lessard was taking 
her about shows that these officers' women have re- 
ceived her with open arms. They form a clique as 
exclusive as a quarantined smallpox patient, and a 
*non-com' like myself is barred out, until I win a 
pair of shoulder-straps ; when my rank would make 
me socially possible. Meantime, I'm a sergeant, and 
if Lyn went to picking friends out of the ranks, I'm 
not sure they wouldn't drop her like a hot potato. 
Sounds rotten, but that's their style ; and you've been 
through the mill at home enough to know what it is 
to be knifed socially. It's different with you; 
you're an American citizen, a countr}^man of hers. 
You understand ?" 

"Yes," I answered tartly. "But I don't under- 



76 RAW GOLD 



Stand how you can stomach this sort of existence. 
.What is there in it? Where is the profit or satis- 
faction in this kind of thing, for you? Will the 
man in the ranks get credit for taming the North- 
west when his work is done? Why the devil don't 
you quit the job? Cut loose and be a free agent 
again." 

''It is a temptation, the way things have come up 
in the last day or two," he mused. "Fd like to be 
foot-loose, so I could work it out without any string 
attached to me. But there are only two ways I 
could get out of the Force, and neither is open. I 
might desert, which would be a dirty way to sneak 
out of a thing I went into deliberately; or, if they 
were minded to allow me, I could buy my discharge 
' — and I haven't the price. Besides, I like the game 
and I don't know that I want to quit it. The life 
isn't so bad. It's your rabidly independent point of 
View. A man that can't obey orders is not likely 
to climb to a position where he can give them. What 
the dickens would become of the cow-outfits,'* he 
challenged, "if every stockhand refused to take 



RAW GOLD 77 



orders from the foreman and owners? Do you 
stand on your dignity when La Pere tells you to do 
certain things in a certain way?'* 

I shrugged my shoulders. There was just enough 
truth in his words to make them hard to confute, 
and, anyway, I was not in the mood for that sort 
of argument. But I was very sure that I would 
rather be a forty-dollar-a-month cowpuncher than a 
sergeant in the Mounted Police. 

"That fellow with her is the big gun here, is he?'* 
I reverted to Lyn and her affairs. 

**Yes," Mac answered shortly, "that was Les- 
sard." 

By this time we had come to the last cabin in the 
row. A whitewashed fence enclosed a diminutive 
yard, and as we turned in the gate Bat Perkins 
appeared in the doorway, both hands thrust deep in 
his trousers pockets and a pipe sagging down one 
comer of his wide mouth. He was rudely jovial in 
his greeting, as most of his type were. His wit was 
labored, but his welcome was none the less genuine. 

**I seen yuh ride in, Mac," he grinned, "an' I told 



78 RAW GOLD 



the old woman t' turn herself loose on the beefsteak 
an' spuds, for here comes that hungry-lookin' jasper 
from Pend d' Oreille." 

I was duly made acquainted with Bat, and later 
with his wife, who, if she did have a trace of Indian 
blood in her, could certainly qualify as the patron 
saint of hungry men. Good cooks were a scarce 
article on the frontier then. Bat, I learned, was 
attached to the Force in a civilian capacity. 

We ate, smoked a cigarette apiece, and then it 
was time for us to "repawt." So we betook our- 
selves to the seat of the mighty, to unload our troub- 
les on the men who directed the destinies of the 
turbulent Northwest and see what they could do to- 
ward alleviating them. 

This time the orderly passed us in without delay, 
and once more we faced the man of rank, who, after 
taking our measure with a deliberate stare, ordered 
MacRae to state his business. 

As Mac related the unvarnished tale of the 
banked fire in the canyon, the hold-up, and the 
double murder, a slight sound caused me to turn 



RAW GOLD 79 



my head, and I saw in a doorway that led to another 
room the erect figure of Major Lessard Hstening 
intently, a black frown on his eagle face. When 
MacRae had finished his story and the incapable 
blockhead behind the desk sat there regarding the 
two of us as though he considered that we had been 
the victims of a rank hallucination, Lessard slammed 
the door shut behind him and strode into the room. 

"I'll take charge of this, Captain Dobson," he 
brusquely informed the red-faced numskull. 

Taking his stand at the end of the desk, he made 
MacRae reiterate in detail the grim happenings of 
that night. That over, he quizzed me for a few 
minutes. Then he turned loose on MacRae with a 
battery of questions. Could he give a description of 
the men? Would he be able to identify them? 
Why did he not exercise more precaution when in- 
vestigating anything so suspicious as a concealed 
fire? Why this, why that? Why didn't he send a 
trooper to report at once instead of wasting time in 
going to Stony Crossing ? And a dozen more. 

With every word his thin-lipped mouth drew into 



80 RAW GOLD 



harder lines, and the cold, domineering tone, 
weighted heavy with sneering emphasis, grated on 
me till I wanted to reach over and slap his hand- 
some, smooth-shaven face. But MacRae stood at 
"attention" and took his medicine dumbly. He had 
to. He was in the presence, and answering the 
catechism, of a superior officer, and his superior 
officer by virtue of a commission from the Canadian 
government could insult his manhood and lash him 
unmercifully with a viperish tongue, and if he dared 
to resent it by word 'or deed there was the guard- 
house and the shame of irons — for discipline must 
be maintained at any cost! I thanked the star of 
destiny then and there that no Mounted Police 
officer had a string attached to me, by which he 
could force me to speak or be silent at his will. It 
was a dirty piece of business on Lessard's part. 
Even Dobson eyed him wonderingly. 

"Why, damn it!" Lessard finally burst out, 
"you've handled this like a green one, fresh from 
over the water. You are held up; this man is 
robbed of ten thousand dollars; another man is 



RAW GOLD 81 



murdered under your very nose — and then you 
waste thirty-six hours blundering around the coun- 
try to satisfy your infernal curiosity. It's incredible, 
in a man of your frontier experience, under any 
hypothesis except that you stood in with the out- 
laws and held back to assure their escape !" 

At first MacRae had looked puzzled, at a loss. 
Then under the lash of Lessard's bitter tongue the 
dull red stole up into his weather-browned cheeks, 
glowed there an instant and receded, leaving his 
face white under the tan. His left hand was at its 
old, familiar trick — fingers shut tight over the 
thumb till the cords stood tense between the 
knuckles and wrist — a never-failing sign that in- 
ternally he was close to the boiling-point, no matter 
how calm he appeared on the surface. And when 
Lessard flung out that last unthinkable accusation, 
the explosion came. 

"You lie, you !" MacRae spoke in a cold 

impersonal tone, and only the flat strained note be- 
trayed his feeling; but the term applied to Lessard 
was one to make a man's ears burn; it was the 



82 RAW GOLD 



range-riders' gauntlet thrown squarely in an enemy's 
face, "You lie when you say that, and you know 
you lie. I don't know your object, but I call your 
bluff — you — you blasted insect!" 

Lessard, if he had been blind till then, saw what 
was patent to me — that he had gone a bit too far, 
that the man he had baited so savagely was primed 
to kill him if he made a crooked move. MacRae 
leaned forward, his gray eyes twin coals, the thumb 
of his right hand hooked suggestively in the cart- 
ridge-belt, close by the protruding handle of his six- 
shooter. They were a well-matched pair; iron- 
nerved, both of them, the sort of men to face sud- 
den death open-eyed and unafraid. 

A full minute they glared at each other across 
the desk corner. Then Lessard, without moving a 
muscle or altering his steady gaze, spoke to Dobson. 

"Call the orderly," he said quietly. 

Dobson, mouth agape, struck a little bell on the 
desk and the orderly stepped in from the outer room. 

"Orderly, disarm Sergeant MacRae." 

Lessard uttered the command evenly, without a 



RAW GOLD 83 



jarring note, his tone almost a duplicate of Mac- 
Rae's. He was a good judge of men, that eagle- 
faced major; he knew that the slightest move with 
hostile intent would mean a smoking gun. MacRae 
would have shot him dead in his tracks if he'd tried 
to reach a weapon. But a man who is really game 
— which no one who knew him could deny MacRae 
— won't, can't shoot down another unless that other 
shows fight; and a knowledge of that gun-fighters* 
trait saved Major Lessard's hide from being thor- 
oughly punctured that day. 

The orderly, a rather shaky orderly if the trutH 
be told (I think he must have listened through the 
keyhole ! ) stepped up to Mac. 

*'Give me your side-arms, sergeant," he said, ner- 
vously. 

MacRae looked from one to the other, and for a 
breath I was as nervous as the trooper. It was 
touch and go, just then, and if he'd gone the wrong 
way it's altogether likely that I'd have felt called 
upon to back his play, and there would have been a 
horrible mix-up in that two by four room. But he 



84 RAW GOLD 



didn't. Just smiled, a sardonic sort of grimace, and i 

unbuckled his belt and handed it over without a 
word. He'd begun to cool. 

'Reduced to the ranks — thirty days in irons— ^ 



til 



i 



solitary confinement!" Lessard snapped the words 

i 
out with a wolfish satisfaction. j 

''Keep a close mouth, Sarge," MacRae spoke in | 

Spanish with his eyes bent on the floor, "and don't 

quit the country till I get out." Then he turned at | 

1 

the orderly's command and marched out of the : 

room. 

When I again turned to Lessard he still stood at 
the end of the desk, industriously paring his finger- '■ 

nails. An amused smile wrinkled the corners of his 1 

mouth. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

LYN. 

WHEREAS Lessard had acted the martinet 
with MacRae, he took another tack and 
became the very essence of affabihty to- 
ward me. (I'd have enjoyed punching his proud 
head, for all that ; it was a dirty way to serve a man 
who had done his level best.) 

"Rather unfortunate happening for you, Flood," 
he began. "I think, however, that we shall event- 
ually get your money back." 

"I hope so," I replied coolly. "But I must say 
that it begins to look like a big undertaking." 

"Well, yes; it is," he observ^ed. "Still, we have a 
pretty thorough system of keeping track of things 
like that. This is a big country, but you can count 
on the fingers of one hand the places where a man 
can spend money. Of course, you probably realize 
the difficulty of laying hands on men who know 
they are wanted, and act accordingly. We can't 



86 RAW GOLD 



arrest on a description, because you wouldn't know 
the men if you saw them. Our only chance is to be 
on the lookout for free spenders. It's a certainty 
that they will be captured if they spend that money 
at any trading-post within our jurisdiction. I'll 
find out if the quartermaster knows the numbers 
and denomination of the bills. On the other hand, 
if they go south, cross the line, you know, we won't 
get much of a show at them. But we'll have to take 
chances on that." 

"I've done all I can do in that direction," I said. 
"I've sent word to La Pere." 

"You had better stay hereabout for a while," he 
decided. "You can put up at one of the troop- 
messes for a few days. I'll send a despatch to 
Whoop Up and MacLeod, and we'll see what turns 
up. Also I think I shall send a detail to bring in 
those bodies. The identification must be made com- 
plete. No doubt it will be a trial for Miss Rowan, 
but I think she would feel better to have her father 
buried here. By the way, you knew the Rowans in 
the States, I believe." 



RAW GOLD 87 



"Was trail-boss three seasons for Hank Rowan 
and his partner," I returned briefly. I didn't much 
like his offhand way of asking; not that it wasn't a 
perfectly legitimate query. But I couldn't get rid 
of the notion that he would hand me out the same 
dose he had given MacRae if only he had the power. 

"Ah," he remarked. "Then perhaps you would 
like to go out and help bring in those bodies. It 
will save taking the Pend d' Oreille riders from 
their regular patrol, and we are having considerable 
trouble with whisky- runners these days." 

I agreed to go, and that terminated the conversa- 
tion. I didn't mind going; in fact some sort of 
action appealed to me just then. I had no idea of 
going back to Benton right away, and sitting around 
Fort Walsh waiting for something to turn up was 
not my taste. It never struck me till I was outside 
the ofiice that Lessard had passed up the gold epi- 
sode altogether; he hadn't said whether he would 
send any one to prognosticate around Writing-Stone 
or not. I wondered if he took any stock in Rutter's 
story, or thought it merely one of the queer turns 



88 RAW GOLD 



a man's brain will sometimes take when he is dying. 
It had sounded off-color to me, at first ; but I knew 
old Hans pretty well, and he always seemed to me a 
hard-headed, matter of fact sort of man, not at all 
the flighty kind of pilgrim that gets mixed in his 
mental processes when things go wrong. Besides, 
if there wasn't some powerful incentive, why that 
double killing, to say nothing of the incredible devil- 
ishness that accompanied it. 

Once out of the official atmosphere, I hesitated 
over my next move. Lessard's high-handed squelch- 
ing of MacRae had thrown everything out of focus. 
We'd planned to report at headquarters, see Lyn, if 
she were at Walsh, and then with Pend d' Oreille 
as a base of operations go on a still hunt for what- 
ever the Writing-Stone might conceal. That 
scheme was knocked galley-west and crooked, for 
even when MacRae's term expired he'd get a long 
period of duty at the Fort; he'd lost his rank, and 
as a private his coming and going would be accor- 
ding to barrack-rule instead of the freedom allowed 
a sergeant in charge of an outpost like Pend d' 



RAW GOLD 89 



Oreille — I knew that much of the Mounted Police 
style of doing business. And so far as my tackling 
single-handed a search for Hank Rowan's cache — 
well, I decided to see Lyn before I took that con- 
tract. 

I hated that, too. It always went against my 
grain to be a bearer of ill tidings. I hate to make 
a woman cry, especially one I like. Some one had 
to tell her, though, and, much as I disliked the 
mission, I felt that I ought not to hang back and let 
some stranger blurt it out. So I nailed the first 
trooper I saw, and had him show me the domicile 
of Mrs. Stone — who, I learned, was the wife of 
Lessard's favorite captain — and thither I rambled, 
wishing mightily for a good stiff jolt out of the keg 
that Piegan Smith and Mac had clashed over. But 
if there was any bottled nerve- restorer around Fort 
Walsh it was tucked away in the officers' cellars, 
and not for the benefit of the common herd; so I 
had to fall back on a cigarette. 

Lyn was sitting out in front when I reached the 
place. Another female person, whom I put down 



90 RAW GOLD 



as Madam Stone, arose and disappeared through an 
open door at my approach. Lyn motioned me to a 
camp-stool close by. I sat down, and immediately 
my tongue became petrified. My think-machinery 
was running at a dizzy speed, but words — if silence 
is truly golden, I was the richest man in Fort Walsh 
that afternoon, for a few minutes, at least. And 
when my vocal organs did at last consent to fulfil 
their natural of^ce, they refused to deliver anything 
but empty commonplaces, the kind one's tongue 
carries in stock for occasional moments of barren 
speech. These oral inanities only served to make 
Lyn give me the benefit of a look of amused wonder. 

*'Dear me," she laughed at last. *'I wonder what 
weighty matter is crushing you to the earth. If 
you've got anything on your conscience, Sarge, for 
goodness' sake confess. I'll give you absolution, if 
you like, and then perhaps you'll be a little more 
cheerful." 

"No, there's nothing particular weighing me 
down," I lied flatly. "Anyway, I don't aim to un- 
load my personal troubles on you. I came over here 



RAW GOLD 91 



to acquire a little information. How came you away 
up here by your lonesome, and what brought your 
father and old Hans " 

Her purple-shaded eyes widened, each one a ques- 
tion-mark. 

"Who told you that Hans was up North? I know 
I didn't mention him," she cut in quickly. *'Have 
vou seen them?" 

It's a wonder my face didn't betray the fact that 
I was holding something back. I know I must have 
looked guilty for a second. That was a question I 
would gladly have passed up, but her eyes demanded 
an answer. 

"Well," I protested, "it occurred to me that if 
you expected to meet your father here in a day or 
two, Rutter would naturally be with him, seeing 
that they've paddled in the same canoe since a good 
many years before you were born, my lady. What 
jarred you all loose from Texas? And what the 
mischief did you do to MacRae that he quit the 
South next spring after I did, and straightway went 
to soldiering in this country?** 



92 RAW GOLD 



She shied away from that query, just as I ex- 
pected. "We had oceans of trouble after you left 
there, Sarge," she told me, turning her head from 
me so that her gaze wandered over the barrack- 
square. "It really doesn't make pleasant telling, but 
you'll understand better than some one that didn't 
know the country. You remember Dick Feltz, and 
that old trouble about the Conway brand that dad 
bought a long time back?" 

I nodded; I remembered Mr. Feltz very well in- 
deed, for the well-merited killing of one of his hired 
assassins was the main cause of my hasty departure 
from Texas. 

"Well, it came to a head, one day, in Fort Worth. 
They shot each other up terribly, and a week or so 
later Feltz died. His people in the East got it into 
their heads that it was a case of murder. They 
stirred up the county authorities till every one was 
taking sides. Of course, dad was cleared ; but that 
seemed to be the beginning of a steady run of bad 
luck. The trial cost an awful lot of money, and 
made enemies, too. Feltz had plenty of friends of 



RAW GOLD 93 



his own calibre — you know that to your sorrow, 
don't you, Sarge? — and they started trouble on the 
range. It was simply terrible for a while. Dad can 
supply the details when he comes." ("when he 
comes" — I tell you, that jarred me.) "Finally 
things got to such a pass that dad had to quit. And 
what with a deal in some Mexican cattle that didn't 
•turn out well, and some other business troubles that 
I never quite understood, we were just about fin- 
ished when we closed out." 

She let her eyes meet mine for an instant, and 
they were smiling, making light of it all. Most 
women, I thought, would have had a good cry, or at 
least pulled a long face, over a hard-luck story like 
ithat. But she was really more of a woman than I 
had thought her, and I thanked the Lord she was 
game when I remembered what I had to tell her 
_before I was through. 

"Dad and Hans Rutter, as you know, weren't the 
sort of men to sit around and mourn over anything 
like that," she laughed. *'I don't know where they 
got the idea of going to Peace River. But dad 



94 RAW GOLD 



settled me and Mammy Thomas in a little cottage 
in Austin, and they started. I wanted to go along, 
but dad wouldn't hear of it. They've been gone a 
little over two years. I'd get word from them about 
every three months, and early this spring dad wrote 
that they had made a good stake and were coming 
home. He said I could come as far as Benton to 
meet them, and we would take the boat from there 
down to St. Louis. So I looked up the lay of the 
country, and sent him word I would come as far as 
Walsh. He had said they would come out by way 
of this place. And then I rounded up Mammy 
Thomas and struck out. I've rather enjoyed the 
trip, too. They should be here any day, now." 

My conscience importuned me to tell her bluntly 
that they would only come into Walsh feet first. 
But I dodged the unpleasant opening. There was 
another matter I wanted to touch upon first. 

"Look here, Lyn," I said — rather dubiously, it 
must be confessed, for I didn't know how she would 
take it, "I'm going to tell you something on my own 
responsibility, and you mustn't get the idea that I'm 



RAW GOLD 95 



trying to mix into your personal affairs without a 
warrant. But I have a hunch that you're laboring 
under a mistaken impression, right now; that is, 
if you care anything about an old friend like Mac- 
Rae." 

"I can't really say that I do, though," she assured 
me quickly, but she colored in a way that convinced 
me that her feeling toward AlacRae was of the sort 
she would never admit to any one but himself. 

"Well/' I continued, ''I imagined you would think 
it queer that he should pass you up as he did a while 
ago. But here at Fort Walsh we're among a class 
of people that are a heap different from Texas cow- 
punchers. These redcoats move along social lines 
that don't look like much to a cowman ; but once in 
the Force you must abide by them. It was con- 
sideration for you that forbade MacRae to stop. 
Any woman in the company of an officer is taboo to 
an enlisted man, according " 



"I know all that," she interrupted impatiently. 
"Probably they'd cut me, and all that sort of thing. 
I understand their point of view, exactly, but Fm 



96 RAW GOLD 



not here to play the social game, and I shall talk to 
whom it pleases me. Do you or Gordon MacRae 
honestly believe I care a snap for their petty con- 
ventions?" 

"No, I know you better than that,'* I responded. 
"All the same, this is a pretty rough country for a 
woman, and if you've made friends among the 
people on top, they may come in handy. For that 
matter," I concluded, "you won't get a chance to 
have the cold shoulder turned to you for associating 
with MacRae; not for some time, anyway." 

"What do you mean?" she demanded, in that 
answer-me-at-once way I knew of old. 

"MacRae has gotten into a bad hole," I told her 
plainl3^ "Major Lessard, who happens to be the 
big chief in this neck of the woods, seems to have 
developed a sudden grouch against him. There was 
a hold-up night before last — in fact, I was the vic- 
tim. I was separated from a big bunch of money 
that belongs to the outfit I'm working for. Mac 
was with me at the time. He had to come in here 
and report it, for it happened in his district, and the 



RAW GOLD 97 



major raked him over the coals in a way that was 
hard to stand. You know MacRae, Lyn ; it's mighty 
poor business for any man to tread on his toes, 
much less go walking rough-shod all over him. 
Lessard went the length of accusing him of being 
in with these hold-up men, because he did a little 
investigating on his own account before coming in 
to report. Mac took that pretty hard, and came 
mighty near making the major eat his words with 
gunpowder sauce on the side. So, for having the 
nerve to declare himself, he has lost his sergeant's 
stripes and has likewise gone to the guard-house to 
meditate over the foolishness of taking issue with 
his superiors. If you don't see him for the next 
thirty days, you'll have the consolation of knowing 
that he isn't avoiding you purposely." 

It was a rather flippant way to talk, but it was 
the best I could do under the circumstances. The 
last three days hadn't been exactly favorable to a 
normal state of mind, or well-considered speech. 

But — who was the wise mortal that said: "No 
man knoweth the mind of a maid"? — she sat there 



98 RAW GOLD 



quite unmoved, her hands resting quietly in her lap. 
*'We all seem to be more or less under a cloud, 
Sarge," she said slowly. "Maybe when dad comes 
he can furnish a silver lining for it. I sometimes — 
what makes you look that way? You look as if 
you were thinking it my fault that Gordon is in 
trouble." 

"You're wrong there," I protested, truthfully 
enough. 

"But you have that air," she declared. "And Fm 
not to blame. If he hadn't been so — so — I'm sure 



he'd get out of the Mounted Police fast enough if 
he didn't like it. I can't imagine him doing any- 
thing against his will. I never knew him" — with a 
faint smile — " to stay anywhere or do anything that 
didn't suit him." She took to staring out across the 
grounds again, and one hand drew up slowly till 
it was doubled into a tight-shut little fist. 

"Well, he's in that very fix right now. And he's 
likely to continue so, unless some one buys his re- 
lease from the service and makes him a present of it 
You might play the good angel," I suggested, half 



RAW GOLD 99 



in earnest. *'It only costs about five hundred dol- 
lars" — Mac had told me that — "and I'm sure he'd 
be properly grateful." 

The red flag waved in her cheeks again. **I don't 
particularly like the idea," she said, rather crossly, 
still keeping her face turned away from me, "and 
I'm very sure he wouldn't care to have me. But 
dad thinks a lot of him; he might do something of 
the kind when he gets here. Dear, I wish they'd 
hurry along." 

She had me at the end of my rope at last, and I 
felt like breaking away right there; any one not 
utterly calloused would, I think, have felt the same 
squeamishness with that sort of a tale crowding 
close. If she had been expecting bad news of any 
kind it wouldn't have been so hard to go on; but I 
couldn't beat about the bush any longer, so I made 
the plunge with what grace I could. 

"Lyn, I've got something to tell you about your 
father and old Hans, and I'm afraid it's going to 
hurt," I prefaced gently, and went on before she 
could interrupt. "The fellows who held MacRae 



100 RAW GOLD 



and me up had someway got wind of the gold they 
were packing out. They tried to get it. So far as 
I know, they haven't succeeded yet. Rutter tried to 
tell us where it was cached. There was a fight over 
it, you see, and he was shot. Mac and I came across 
him — ^but not soon enough." I stopped and got out 
cigarette material in an absent sort of way. My 
lips, I remember, were almighty dry just then. 

"And dad ?" Lyn was looking at me intently, and 
her voice was steady; that squeezed kind of steadi- 
ness that is almost worse than tears. 

"He wasn't with Rutter." I drew a long b'reatli 
and hurried on, slurring over the worst of it. "They 
had got separated. Hans was about done when we 
found him — he died in a few minutes — ^but he told 
us where to go. Then we went to look for your 
father. We found him; too late to do any good. 
We buried him — ^both of them — and came on here." 

I felt like a beast, as if I had struck her with my 
fist, but at any rate, it was all told ; all that she need 
ever know. I sat still and watched her, wondering 
nervously what she would do. 



RAW GOLD 101 



It was a strain to sit there silent, for Lyn neither 
did or said anything at first. Perhaps she cried 
afterward, when she got by herself, but not then; 
just looked at me, through me, almost, her face 
white and drawn into pained lines, and those purple- 
blue eyes perfectly black. I got up at last, and put 
one hand on her shoulder. 

"It's hell, little girl, I know." I said this hardly 
realizing that I swore. "We can't bring the old man 
back to life, but we can surely run down the cold- 
blooded devils that killed him. I have a crow to 
pick with them myself; but that doesn't matter; I'd 
be in the game anyway. We'll get them somehow, 
when Mac gets out and can play his hand again. It 
was finding your father and giving him decent 
burial that kept us out so long. I don't understand, 
yet, why Lessard should pitch into MacRae so hard 
for doing that much. You know Mac, Lyn, and 
you know me — we'll do what we can." 

She didn't move for a minute, and the shocked, 
stricken look in her eyes grew more intense. Then 
she dropped her head in the palms of her hands with 



102 RAW GOLD 



a little sobbing cry. "Sarge, I — I wish you'd go, 
now," she whispered. "I want to — to be all by my- 
self, for a while. I'll be all right by and by." 

I stood irresolute for a second. It may have been 
my fancy, but I seemed to hear her whisper, "Oh, 
Gordon, Gordon!" Then I hesitated no longer, but 
turned away and left her alone with her grief; it 
was not for me to comfort her. And when I had 
walked a hundred yards or more, I looked back. 
She was still sitting as I had left her, head bowed on 
her hands, and the afternoon sun playing hide-and- 
seek in the heavy coils of her tawny-gold hair. 



CHAPTER IX. 

AN IDLE AFTERNOON. 

FOR the next hour or two I poked aimlessly 
around the post buildings, chafing at the 
forced inaction and wondering what I would 
better do after I'd gone with the squad of redcoats 
to those graves and helped bring the bodies in. 
Even if I had a pack-horse and a grub-stake, it 
would be on a par with chasing a rainbow for me 
to start on a lone hunt for Hank Rowan's cache. 
I didn't know the Writing-Stone country, and a 
man had no business wandering up and down those 
somber ridges alone, away from the big freight- 
trails, unless he was anxious to be among the "re- 
ported missing" — which he sure would be if a bunch 
of non-treaty Indians ever got within gunshot of 
him. I damned Major Lessard earnestly for what 
I considered his injustice to MacRae, and won- 
•dered if he would send his troopers out to look for 



104 RAW GOLD 



that hypothetical gold-dust. I didn't see how he 
could avoid making a bluff at doing so, even if he 
secretly classed Rutter's story as a fairy-tale, and I 
promised myself to find out what he was going to 
do before I started in the morning. 

While I was sitting with my back against the 
shaded wall of troop G's barrack, turning this over 
in my mind, a Policeman with the insignia of a 
sergeant on his sleeve came sauntering leisurely by. 
He took me in with an appraising glance, and 
stopped. 

"How d'ye do," he greeted, with a friendly nod. 
"You're the man that came in with MacRae, aren't 



you?" 

I laconically admitted that I was. 

"The k. o. has detailed me to bring in the bodies 
of the two men who were killed," he informed me. 
"He said that you were going along, and so I 
thought I'd hunt you up and tell you that we'll start 
about seven in the morning." 

"I'll be ready," I assured him. 

"Come on over to the bull-pen," he invited cor- 



RAW GOLD 105 



dially. "Sorry we haven't a canteen in connection, 
but it's more comfortable over there. Good place 
to lop about, y' know; a decent place to sit, and a 
few books and cards and that sort of thing. Come 
along." 

I rather liked the man's style, and as he seemed to 
be really anxious to make things pleasant for me, I 
shuffled off the pessimistic mood I was drifting into, 
and fell in with his proposal. The "bull-pen" 
proved to be a combination reading and lounging- 
room for the troopers not on duty. My self-ap- 
pointed host, whose name was Goodell, waved me 
to a chair, and took one opposite. With his feet 
cocked up on a window-sill, and a cigarette going, 
he leaned back in his chair, and our conversation 
slackened so that I had a chance to observe my sur- 
roundings. It was a big place, probably fifty feet 
by a hundred, and quite a number of redcoats were 
sprinkled about, some reading, some writing letters, 
and two or three groups playing cards. None of 
them paid any attention to me, beyond an occasional 
disinterested glance, until my roving eyes reached 



106 RAW GOLD 



a point directly behind me. Then I became aware 
that one of a bunch of four poker-players a few 
feet distant was regarding me with an expression 
that puzzled me. I had turned my head rather 
quickly and caught him staring straight at me. It 
was an odd look, sort of amused, and speculative; 
at least, that was the way I read it. Twice in the 
next ten minutes I glanced around quickly and 
caught him sizing me up, as it were; and then I 
hitched my chair sidewise, and deliberately began 
studying the gentleman to see if I could discover the 
source of his interest in me. 

I failed in that, but I stopped his confounded 
quizzical stare. He wasn't the style of man that I'd 
care to stir up trouble with, judging from his size 
and the shape of his head. He was about my height, 
but half as broad again across the shoulders, and his 
thick, heavy-boned wrists showed hairy as an ape's 
when he stretched his arms to deal the cards. Aside 
from his physical proportions, there was nothing 
about the man to set him apart from his fellows. 
Half a dozen men in that room had the same shade 



RAW GOLD 107 



of hair and mustache, and the same ordinary blue 
eyes. I turned back to the window again, thinking 
that I was getting nervous as an old maid, to let a 
curious look from a stranger stir me like that. 

In a few minutes the trooper opposite my friend 
of the poker-game drew out, and one of the players 
called loudly on Goodell to take his place. Goodell 
lighted another cigarette and nonchalantly seated 
himself in the vacant chair. Then I observed for 
the first time that the game was for blood rather 
than pastime, for Goodell paid for his little pile of 
white beans in good, gold coin of the realm. Next 
to playing a little "draw" myself, I like to watch 
the game, and so I moved over where I could see 
the bets made and the hands exhibited. And there I 
stuck till "stables" sounded, watching the affable 
sergeant outgeneral his opponents, and noting with 
some amusement the sulky look that grew more 
intensified on the heavy face of Hicks (as they 
called the man who had favored me with that 
peculiar stare) when Goodell finessed him out of 
two or three generous-sized pots. 



108 RAW GOLD 



On my way to attend to my horse, Bat Perkins 
overtook me. 

"Say, old-timer, is it right about Mac losing his 
stripes and getting thirty days in the cooler?" he 
asked in lowered tone. 

"It sure is," I answered emphatically. 

"What in thunder for?" he inquired resentfully. 
And because I was aching to express my candid 
opinion of Major Lessard and all his works to some 
one who would understand my point of view, I told 
Bat all about it — omitting any mention of the gold- 
dust. Only four men, Dobson the fathead, Lessard, 
MacRae and myself, knew what little was known of 
that, and I felt that I had no license to spread the 
knowledge further. 

"Oh, they sure do hand it to a man if he malces 
the least break," Bat sympathized. "Mac's one uH 
the best men they've got in the Force, an' they know 
it, too. Darned if that don't sound queer t' me; 
what else could he do ? But Lessard's a overbearin' 
son-of-a-gun all round, and he's always breakin' 
out in a new place. Say, you might as well come 



RAW GOLD 109 



over an' stay with me while you're round here. I 
don't reckon you'll enjoy her din' with these rough- 
necks." 

Bat's offer was not one to be overlooked by a 
man in my circumstances, so after supper found me 
sitting in his kitchen making gloomy forecasts of 
the future, between cigarettes. Shortly before the 
moon-faced clock nailed on the wall struck the hour 
of nine with a great internal whirring, some one 
tapped lightly on the door. Bat himself answered 
the knock. His body shut off sight of whoever 
stood outside. I could just catch the murmur of a 
subdued voice. After a few seconds of listening 
Bat nodded vigorously, and closed the door. He 
came back to his chair grinning pleasantly, and 
handed me a little package. I tore it open and 
found, wrapped tightly about three twenty-dollar 
gold pieces, an unsigned note from MacRae. It 
ran: 

"Get after Lessard and see If he won't send an escort witH 
you to Writing-Stone. If he does, and you find anything, I 
needn't warn you to be careful. I don't think he beheved our 
yam, at all. If he refuses to act, stay here till I get out. 



no RAW GOLD 



This 
If you 
can. 



money will hold you for a while. It's all I could rustle, 
lu need more, maybe Bat can stake you — he will if he 



That was all. Not a word about Lyn. The 
stiff-necked devil ! 

"You know what this is, don't you?" I said to 
Bat. "How the dickens did he manage it?" 

Bat's grin became even more expansive. "There 
ain't a buck trooper on the job," he replied, "that 
wouldn't help Mac if he got half a show; he's a 
white man. It's easy for a prisoner t' slip a note 
to a friend that happens t' be mountin' guard. He 
sent it t' me because I'd be apt t' know where yuh 
was. Sahef' 

I did. Mac's suggestion was right in line with 
my own idea. Lessard could scarcely refuse to do 
that much, I thought; and it would be rather un- 
healthy for those prairie pirates to match themselves 
against a bunch of Mounted Policemen who were 
on their guard — provided we found anything that 
was worth fighting over. 

A little later Bat spread a bed for me on the 



RAW GOLD 111 



kitchen floor, and I turned in. But my sleep re- 
solved itself into a series of cat-naps. When the 
first sunbeam gleamed through the window of Bat's 
tiny kitchen, I arose, pulled on my boots and went 
to feed my horse. And when we had eaten break- 
fast I headed straight for Lessard's private quar- 
ters. I expected he would object to talking business 
out of business hours, but I didn't care ; I wanted to 
know what he was going to do, before I started on 
that three-day trip. Fortunately Lessard was an 
early bird, like myself. I met him striding toward 
the building that seemed to be a clearing house for 
the oflicial contingent. 

"Good-morning, major," I said, mustering up a 
semblance of heartiness that was far from being the 
genuine article — I didn't like the man and it galled 
me to ask anything of him. ''I want to ask you 
something before I leave. Have you talked this 
affair over with Miss Rowan?" 

"Yes. Why?" He was maddeningly curt, but I 
pocketed my feelings and persisted. 

"Then you must know beyond a doubt that there 



112 RAW GOLD 



was some truth in Rutter's story," I declared. 
"Hank Rowan was my friend. I'd go out of my 
way any time to help his daughter. Will you send 
four or five of your men with me to the Writing- 
Stone to look for that stuff?" I asked him point- 
blank. 

He looked me up and down curiously, and did 
not answer for a minute. "How do you know 
where to look ?" he suddenly demanded. "Writing- 
Stone ridge is ten miles long. What chance would 
you have of finding anything in a territory of that 
extent?" His cold eyes rested on me in a disagree- 
able way. "I thought Rutter died before giving 
you the exact location." 

As a matter of fact, MacRae, in detailing the 
lurid happenings of that night, did not repeat the 
words Rutter had gasped out with his last breath. 
He simply said that Hans died after telling us that 
they had been attacked, and that the gold was hid- 
den at Writing-Stone. And Lessard, as I said be- 
fore, had passed up the gold episode at the time; 
all his concern seemed to be for the robbers' appre- 



RAW GOLD 113 



hension, which was natural enough since a crime 
had undoubtedly been committed and he bore the 
responsibility of catching and punishing the per- 
petrators. The restoration of stolen goods was 
probably dwarfed in his mind by the importance of 
capturing the stealers. 

I was vastly interested in that phase of it, too, for 
I realized that a speedy gathering in of those men 
of the mask was my only chance to lay hold of 
LaPere's ten thousand ; and I had a theory that they 
were hardly the sort to be content with that sum, 
and that Hank Rowan's cached gold would be an 
excellent bait for them, if it could be uncovered. 
Those steadily reiterated phrases, "raw gold — on 
the rock" might have some understandable meaning 
if one were on the spot, but MacRae had kept that 
to himself — and I wasn't running a bureau of in- 
formation for Lessard's benefit. The Canadian 
government might trust him, but I wouldn't — not if 
he took oath on a stack of Bibles, and gave a cast- 
iron bond to play fair. I couldn't give any sound 
reason for feeling that way, beyond the shabby 



114 RAW GOLD 



treatment he'd given MacRae. But somehow the 
man's personality grated on me. Lessard was of 
the type, rare enough, that can't be overlooked if 
one comes in contact with it ; a big, dominant, mag- 
netic brute type that rouses either admiration or 
resentment in other ordinary mortals ; the kind of a 
man that women become fascinated with, and other 
men invariably hate — and sometimes fear. I didn't 
stop to analyze my feeling toward him, just then; 
but I had the impulse to keep what little I knew to 
myself, and I obeyed the promptings of the sixth 
sense. 

*'He did," I answered. "But we can take a 
chance. Send men that know the country. Lyn 
Rowan's kinfolk are few and far between, now; 
that gold means^a good deal to her, in her present 
circumstances." 

"H — m-m." He mused a few seconds. Then: 
"If I think there's any possibility of finding it — 
well, I'll see what can be done, after those bodies 
are brought in. You, I suppose, are ready to 
start?" 



RAW GOLD 115 



I nodded. 

"Sergeant Goodell is in charge of the detail. 
You'll probably find him about to go. That's all." 

It was like being dismissed from parade ; a right- 
about-face, march! command straight from the 
shoulder. Again I was overwhelmed with thank- 
fulness that the N. W. M. P. had no string on me ; 
I never took orders from anybody in that tone of 
voice, and I wanted to shake a defiant fist under 
the autocratic major's nose and tell him so. I had 
sense enough to see that the time and place was 
unpropitious for starting an argument of that sort, 
so I kept an unperturbed front and went about my 
business. 



V 



CHAPTER X. 

THE VANISHING ACT, AND THE FRUITS THEREOF. 

BEING aware that it was near the time Goodell 
had named for starting, I returned to the sta- 
bles, and, getting my horse, rode to the com- 
missary. There I found Goodell engineering the 
final preparations. Four men, besides myself, made 
up the party : the sergeant. Hicks the hairy-wristed, 
another private, and a half-breed scout. They were 
lashing an allowance of food and blankets on a 
pack-horse, and two other horses with bare aparejos 
on their backs were tied to the horn of the breed's 
saddle — for what purpose I could easily guess. 

While I sat on my cahallo waiting for them to tie 
the last hitch a rattle of wheels and the thud of 
hoofs drew near, and presently a blue wagon, drawn 
by four big mules and flanked by half a dozen 
Mounted Policemen, passed by the commissary 
building. The little cavalcade struck a swinging 



RAW GOLD 117 



trot as it cleared the barracks, swung down into the 
bed of Battle Creek, up the farther bank, and away 
to the west. And a little later we, too, left the post, 
following in the dusty wake of the paymaster's 
wagon and its mounted escort. 

For ten or twelve miles we kept to the MacLeod 
trail at an easy pace, never more than a mile behind 
the "transient treasury," as Goodell facetiously 
termed it. He was a pretty bright sort, that same 
Goodell, quick-witted, nimble of tongue above the 
average Englishman. I don't know that he was 
English; for that matter, none of the three carried 
the stamp of his nationality on his face or in his 
speech. They were men of white blood, but they 
might have been English, Irish, Scotch or Dutch 
for all I could tell to the contrary. But each of 
them was broke to the frontier; that showed in the 
way they sat their horses, the way they bore them- 
selves toward one another when clear of the post 
and its atmosphere of rigidly enforced discipline. 
iThe breed I didn't take much notice of at the time, 
except that when he spoke, which was seldom, he 



118 RAW GOLD 



was given to using better language than lots of 
white men I have known. 

At a point where the trail seemed to bear north 
a few degrees, Goodell angled away from the beaten 
track and headed straight across country for Pend 
d' Oreille. At noon we camped, and cooked a bite 
of dinner while the horses grazed; ate it, and went 
on again. 

About three o'clock, as nearly as I could tell, 
we dipped into a wooded creek bottom some two 
hundred yards in width. The creek itself went 
brawling along in a deep-worn channel, and when 
my horse got knee deep in the water he promptly 
stopped and plunged his muzzle into the stream. 
I gave him slack rein, and let him drink his fill. 
The others kept on, climbed the short, steep bank, 
and passed from sight over its rim. I swung down 
from my horse on the brink of the creek, cinched 
the saddle afresh, and rolled a cigarette. If I 
thought about them getting the start of me at all, 
it was to reflect that they couldn't get a lead of 
more than two or three hundred yards, at the gait 



RAW GOLD 119 



they traveled. Judge then of my surprise when I 
rode up out of the water-washed gully and found 
them nowhere in sight. I pulled up and glanced 
about, but the clumps of scrubby timber were just 
plentiful enough to cut off a clear view of the flat. 
So I fell back on the simple methods of the plains- 
man and Indian and jogged along on their trail 

Not for many days did I learn truly how I came 
to miss them, how and why they had vanished from 
the face of the earth so completely in the few min- 
utes I lingered in the gulch. The print of steel- 
rimmed hoofs showed in the soft loam as plainly as 
a moccasin-track in virgin snow. Around a grove 
of quaking-aspens, eternally shivering in the deadest 
of calms, their trail led through the long grass that 
carpeted the bottom, and suddenly ended in a strip 
of gravelly land that ran out from the bed of the 
creek. I could follow it no farther. If there was 
other mark of their passing, it was hidden from 
me. 

Wondering, and a bit exasperated, I spurred 
Straight up the bank, and when I had reached the 



120 RAW GOLD 



high benchland loped to a point that overlooked the 
little valley a full mile up and down. Cottonwood 
and willow, cut-bank and crooning water, lay green 
and brown and silver-white before, but no riders, 
no thing that moved in the shape of men came 
within the scope of my eyes. But I wasn't done 
yet. I turned away from the bank and raced up a 
long slope to a saw-backed ridge that promised 
largely of unobstructed view. Dirty gray lather 
stood out in spumy rolls around the edge of the 
saddle-blanket, and the wet flanks of my horse 
heaved like the shoulders of a sobbing woman when 
I checked him on top of a bald sandstone peak — 
and though as much of the Northwest as one man's 
eye may hope to cover lay bared on every hand, 
yet the quartet that rode with me from Fort Walsh 
occupied no part of the landscape. I could look 
away to the horizon in every direction, and, except 
for one little herd of buffalo feeding peacefully on 
the westward slant of the ridge, I could see nothing 
but rolling prairie, a vast undulating spread of 
grassland threaded here and there with darker lines 



RAW GOLD 121 



that stood for creeks and coulees, and off to the 
north the blue bulk of the Cypress Hills. 

I got off and sat me down upon a rock, rolled 
another cigarette, and waited. The way to Pend d* 
Oreille led over the ridge, a half mile on either side 
of me, as the spirit moved a traveler who followed 
an approximately straight line. Whatever road they 
had taken, they could not be more than three or 
four miles from that sentinel peak — for there is a 
well-defined limit to the distance a mounted man 
may cover in a given length of time. And from 
my roost I could note the passing of anything 
bigger than a buffalo yearling, within a radius of 
at least six miles. Therefore, I smoked my ciga- 
rette without misgiving, and kept close watch for 
bobbing black dots against the far-flung green. 

I might as well have laid down and gone to sleep 
on that pinnacle for all the good my waiting and 
eye-straining did me. One hour slipped by and then 
another, and still I did not abandon hope of their 
appearance. Naturally, I argued with myself, they 
would turn back when I failed to overtake them — ? 



•122 RAW GOLD 



especially if they had thoughtlessly followed some 
depression in the prairie where I could not easily 
see them. And while I lingered, loath to believe 
that they were hammering unconcernedly on their 
way, the sun slid down its path in the western sky 
 — slid down till its lower edge rested on the rim 
of the world and long black shadows began to creep 
mysteriously out of the low places, while buttes and 
ridges gleamed with cloth of gold, the benediction 
of a dying day. Only then did I own that by hook 
or by crook — and mostly by crook, I was forced to 
suspect — they had purposely given me the slip. 

A seasoned cowpuncher hates to admit that any 
man, or bunch of men, can take him out into an 
open country and shake him off whenever it is de- 
sired; but if I had been a rank tenderfoot they 
couldn't have jarred me loose with greater ease. 
It was smooth work, and I couldn't guess the object, 
unless it was a Mounted Policeman's idea of an 
excellent practical joke on a supposedly capable citi- 
zen from over the line. Anyway, they had left me 
holding the sack in a mighty poor snipe country. 



RAW GOLD 123 



Dark was close at hand, and I was a long way from 
shelter. So when the creeping shadows blanketed 
pinnacle and lowland alike, and all that remained of 
the sun was the flamboyant crimson-yellow on the 
gathering clouds, I was astride of my dun caballo 
and heading for Pend d' Oreille. 

But speedily another unforeseen complication 
arose. Before I'd gone five miles the hoodoo that 
had been working overtime on my behalf got busy 
again. The clouds that were rolling up from the 
east at sundown piled thick and black overhead, and 
when dark was fairly upon me I was, for all prac- 
tical purposes, like a blind man in an unfamiliar 
room. It didn't take me long to comprehend that 
I was merely wasting the strength of my horse in 
bootless wandering; with moonlight I could have 
made it, but in that murk I could not hope to find 
the post. So I had no choice but to make camp in 
the first coulee that offered, and an exceeding lean 
camp I found it — no grub, no fire, no rest, for 
though I hobbled my horse I didn't dare let his rope 
out of my hands. 



124 RAW GOLD 



About midnight the combination of sultry heat 
and banked clouds produced the usual results. 
Lightning first, lightning that ripped the sky open 
from top to bottom in great blazing slits, and thun- 
der that cracked and boomed and rumbled in sharps 
and flats and naturals till a man could scarcely hear 
himself think; then rain in flat chunks, as if some 
malignant agency had yanked the bottom out of 
the sky and let the accumulated moisture of cen- 
turies drop on that particular portion of the North- 
west. In fifteen minutes the only dry part of me 
was the crown of my head — thanks be to a good 
Stetson hat. And my arms ached from the strain 
of hanging onto my horse, for, hobbled as he was, 
he did his best to get up and quit Canada in a 
gallop when the fireworks began. To make it even 
more pleasant, when the clouds fell apart and the 
little stars came blinking out one by one, a chill 
wind whistled up on the heels of the storm, and I 
spent the rest of that night shivering forlornly in 
my clammy clothes. 
( -, Still a-shiver at dawn, I saddled up and loped for 



RAW GOLD 125 



the crest of the nearest divide to get the benefit of 
the first sun-rays. But alas! the hoodoo was still 
plodding diligently on my trail. I topped a little 
rise, and almost rode plump into the hostile arms 
of a half-dozen breechclout warriors coming up the 
other side. I think there were about half a dozen, 
but I wouldn't swear to it. I hadn't the time nor 
inclination to make an exact count. The general 
ensemble of war-paint and spotted ponies was 
enough for me ; I didn't need to be told that it was 
my move. My spurs fairly lifted the dun horse, 
and we scuttled in the opposite direction like a 
scared antelope. The fact that the average Indian 
is not a master hand with a gun except at short 
range was my salvation. If they'd been white men 
I would probably have been curled in a neat heap 
within two hundred yards. As it was, they shot 
altogether too close for comfort, and the series of 
yells they turned loose in that peaceful atmosphere 
made me feel that I was due to be forcibly separated 
'from the natural covering of my cranium if I lost 
any time in getting out of their sphere of influence. 



126 RAW GOLD 



The persistent beggars chased me a good ten 
miles before they drew up, concluding, I suppose, 
that I was too well mounted for them to overhaul. 
But it might have been a lot worse; I still had my 
scalp intact; the chase and its natural excitement 
had brought a comfortable wannth to my chilled 
body; and I had made good time in the direction I 
wished to go. On the whole, I felt that the red 
brother had done me rather a good turn. But I kept 
on high ground, thereafter, where I could see a 
mile or two, for I was very much alive to the fact 
that if another of those surprise-parties jumped me 
now that my horse was tired they would have a 
good deal of fun at my expense; and an Indian's 
idea of fun doesn't coincide with mine — not by a 
long shot ! 

I made some pointed remarks to my horse about 
Mr. Goodell and his companions, as I rode along. 
If Pend d' Oreille hadn't been the nearest place, I'd 
have turned back to Walsh and made that bunch of 
exhumers come back after me, if it were absolutely 
necessary that I should pilot them to the graves. 



RAW GOLD 127 



Personally, I thought those two old plainsmen 
wouldn't thank Major Lessard or any one else for 
disturbing their last, long sleep ; the wide, unpeopled 
prairies had always been their choice in life, and 
I felt that they would rather be laid away in some 
quiet coulee, than in any conventional "city of the 
dead" with prim headstones and iron fences to shut 
them in. A Western man likes lots of room; dead 
or alive, it irks him to be crowded. 

I fully expected to find the four waiting for me 
at Pend d' Oreille, and I was prepared to hear a 
good deal of chaffing about getting lost. What of 
my waiting on the ridge that afternoon, and bearing 
more or less away from the proper direction at 
night, I did not reach the post till noon ; and I was 
a bit puzzled to find only the men who were on duty 
there. I was digesting this along with the remains 
of the troopers' dinner, when Goodell and his satel- 
lites popped over the hill that looked down on Pend 
d' Oreille, and, a few minutes later, came riding 
nonchalantly up to the mess-house. 



128 RAW GOLD 



"Well, you beat us in," Goodell greeted airily. 
"Did you find a short cut?" 

"Sure thing," I responded, with what irony I 
could command. 

"Where the deuce did you go, anyway, after you 
stopped in that creek-bottom?" he asked, eying me 
with much curiosity. "We nearly played our horses 
out galloping around looking for you — after we'd 
gone a mile or so, and you didn't catch up.'* 

"Then you must have kept damned close to the 
coulee-bottoms," I retorted ungraciously, "for I 
burnt the earth getting up on a pinnacle where you 
could see me, before you had time to go very far." 

"Oh, well, it's easy to lose track of a lone man in 
a country as big as this," he returned suavely. "We 
all got here, so what's the odds ? I guess we'll sticlc 
here till morning. We can't make the round trip 
this afternoon, and I'm not camping on the hills 
when it's avoidable." 

It struck me that he was uncommonly philosophi- 
cal about it, so I merely grunted and went on with 
my dinner. 



RAW GOLD 129 



That evening, when we went to the stable to fix 
up our horses for the night, I got a clearer insight 
into his reason for laying over that afternoon. They 
had been doing some tall riding, and their livestock 

was simply unfit to go farther. The four saddle- 
horses looked as if they had been dragged through 
a small-sized knothole; their gauntness, and the 
dispirited droop of their heads, spelled complete 
fatigue to any man who knew the symptoms of 
hard riding. By comparison, my sweat-grimed dun 
was fresh as a morning breeze. 



CHAPTER XL 

THE GENTLEMAN WHO RODE IN THE LEAD. 

IT took US all of the next day to make the trip to 
Stony Crossing and back by way of the place 
where Rutter was buried. Goodell had no 
fancy, he said, for a night camp on the prairie when 
it could be avoided. He planned to make an early 
start from Pend d' Oreille, and thus reach WalsH 
by riding late the next night. So, well toward eve- 
ning, we swung back to the river post. Goodell and 
his fellows were nowise troubled by the presence of 
dead men; they might have been packing so much 
merchandise, from their demeanor. But I was a 
long way from feeling cheerful. The ghastly bur- 
dens, borne none too willingly by the extra horses, 
put a damper on me, and I'm a pretty sanguine in- 
dividual as a rule. 

When we had unloaded the bodies from the un- 
easy horses, and laid them carefully in a lean-to at 



RAW GOLD 1311 



the stable-end, we led our mounts inside. Goodell 
paused in the doorway and emitted a whistle of sur- 
prise at sight of a horse in one of the stalls. I 
looked over his shoulder and recognized at a glance 
the rangy black MacRae had ridden. 

"They must have given Mac's horse to another 
trooper," I hazarded. 

"Not that you could notice," Goodell replied, 
going on in. "They don't switch mounts in the 
Force. If they have now, it's the first time to my 
knowledge. When a man's in clink, his nag gets 
nothing but mild exercise till his rightful rider gets 
out. And MacRae got thirty days. Well, we'll 
soon find out who rode him in." 

I pulled the saddle off my horse, slapped it down 
on the dirt floor, and went stalking up to the long 
cabin. The first man m.y eyes lighted upon as I 
stepped inside was MacRae, humped disconsolately 
on the edge of a bunk. I was mighty glad to see 
him, but I hadn't time to more than say "hello" 
before Goodell and the others came in. Mac drew 
a letter from his pocket and handed it to Goodell. 



132 RAW GOLD 



He glanced quickly through it, then swept the 
rest of us with a quizzical smile. **By Jove! you 
must have a pull with the old man, Mac," he said 
to MacRae. "I suppose you know what's in this 
epistle?" 

"Partly." Mac answered as though it were no 
particular concern of his. 

"I'm to turn Hicks and Gregory over to you," 
he read the note again to be sure of his words, "see 
that you get a week's supply of grub here, and then 
leave you to your own devices. What's the excite- 
ment, now? Piegans on the war-path? Bull-train 
missing, or whisky-runners getting too fresh, or 
what? My word, the major has certainly estab- 
lished a precedent; you're the first man I've known 
that got thirty days in clink and didn't have to serve 
it to the last, least minute. How the deuce did you 
manage it ? Put me on, like a good fellow — I might 
want to get a sentence suspended some day. Any 
of us are liable to get it, y'know." Goodell's tone 
was full of gentle raillery. 



RAW GOLD 133 



"The high and mighty sent me out to lead a for- 
lorn hope," Mac dryly responded. "Does that look 
like a suspended sentence?" He turned his arm so 
that we could see the ripped stitching where his 
sergeant's stripes had been cut away. 

"Tough — but most of us have been there, one 
time or another," Goodell observed sympathetically; 
and with that the subject rested. 

Though I was burning to know things, we hadn't 
the least chance to talk that evening. Nine lusty- 
lunged adults in that one room prohibited confi- 
dential speech. Not till next morning, when we 
rode away from Pend d' Oreille with our backs to 
a sun that was lazily clearing the hill-tops, did Mac- 
Rae and I have an opportunity to unburden our 
souls. When we were fairly under way in the di- 
rection of Writing- Stone, Hicks and Gregory — the 
breed scout — lagged fifty or sixty yards behind, and 
MacRae turned in his saddle and gave me a queer 
sort of look. 

"I wasn't joking last night when I told Goodell 
that this was something of a forlorn hope," he said. 



134 RAW GOLD 



"Are you ready to take a chance on getting your 
throat cut or being shot in the back, Sarge ?" 

I stared at him a second. It was certainly an as- 
tounding question, coming from that source — more 
like the language of the villain in a howling melo- 
drama than a cold-blooded inquiry that called for a 
serious answer. But he was looking at me soberly 
enough ; and he wasn't in the habit of saying start- 
ling things, unless there was a fairly solid basis of 
truth in them. He was the last man in the world 
to accuse of saying or doing anything merely for 
the sake of effect. 

"That depends," I returned. "Why?" 

"Because if we find what we're going after that's 
the sort of formation we may have to buck against 
until we get that stuff to Walsh," he replied coolly. 
"Beautiful prospect, eh? I reckon you'll under- 
stand better if I tell you how it came about. 

"The day you left, Lessard had me up on the 
carpet again. When he got through cross-question- 
ing me, he considered a while, and finally said that 
tinder the circumstances he felt that losing my 



RAW GOLD 135 



stripes would be punishment enough for the rank 
insubordination I'd been guilty of, and he would 
therefore revoke the thirty-day sentence. I pricked 
up my ears at that, I can tell you, because Lessard 
isn't built that way at all. When a man talks to 
any officer the way I did to him, he gets all that's 
coming, and then some for good measure. I began 
to see light pretty quick, though. He went on to 
say that he had spoken to Miss Rowan about her 
father, and had learned that without doubt those 
two old fellows were headed this way with between 
forty and fifty thousand dollars in gold-dust, that 
they'd washed on Peace River. Since I'd been on 
the spot when Rutter died, and knew the Writing- 
Stone country so well, he thought I would stand 
a better show of finding their cache than any one 
else he could send out. He wanted to recover that 
stuff for Miss Rowan, if it were possible. So he 
wrote that order to Goodell and started me out to 
join you — with a warning to keep our eyes open, 
for undoubtedly the men who killed Rutter and 



136 RAW GOLD 



held you up would be watching for a chance at us 
if we found that gold." 

"Very acute reasoning on his part, Tm sure," I 
interrupted. "We knew that without his telling. 
And if he thinks those fellows are hanging about 
waiting for a whack at that dust, why doesn't he 
get out with a bunch of his troopers and round them 
up?" 

"That's what," Mac grinned. "But wait a min- 
ute. This was about three in the afternoon, and 
he ordered me to start at once so as to catch you 
fellows as soon as possible. I started a few minutes 
after three. You remember the paymaster's train 
left that morning. He had a mounted escort of 
six or seven besides his teamster. The MacLeod 
trail runs less than twenty miles north of here, you 
know. I followed it, knowing about where they'd 
camp for the night, thinking I'd make their outfit 
and get something to eat and a chance to sleep an 
hour or two ; then I could come on here early in the 
morning. I got to the place where I had figured 
they would stop, about eleven o'clock, but they had 



RAW GOLD 137 



made better time than usual and gone farther, so I 
quit the trail and struck across the hills, for I didn't 
want to ride too far out of my way. When I got 
on top of the first divide I ran onto a little spring 
and stopped to water my horse and let him pick a 
bit of grass; I'd been riding eight hours, and still 
had quite a jaunt to make. I must have been about 
three miles south of the trail then. 

He stopped to light the cigarette he had rolled 
while he talked, and I kept still, wondering what 
would come next. MacRae wasn't the man to go 
into detail like that unless he had something im- 
portant to bring out. 

"I sat there about an hour, I reckon," he con- 
tinued. *'By that time it was darker than a stack 
of black cats, and fixing to storm. I thought I 
might as well be moving as sit there and get soaked 
to the hide. While I was tinkering with the cinch I 
thought I heard a couple of shots. Of course, I 
craned my neck to listen, and in a second a regular 
fusillade broke out — away off, you know ; about like 
a stick of dry wood crackling in the stove when 



138 RAW GOLD 



you're outside the cabin. I loped out of the hollow 
by the spring and looked down toward the trail. 
The red flashes were breaking out like a bunch of 
firecrackers, and with pretty much the same sound. 
It didn't last long — a minute or so, maybe. I lis- 
tened for a while, but^there was nothing to be seen 
and I heard no more shooting. Now, I knew the 
pay-wagon was somewhere on that road, and it 
struck me that the bunch that got Hans and Rowan 
and held us up might have tried the same game on 
it; and from the noise I judged it hadn't been a 
walkaway. It was a wild guess; but I thought I 
ought to go down and see, anyway. Single-handed, 
and in that dark you could almost feel, I knew I 
was able to sidestep the trouble, if it should be In- 
dians or anything I didn't care to get mixed up in. 

"I'd gone about a mile down the slope when the 
lightning began to tear the sky open. In five min- 
utes the worst of it was right over me, and one flash 
came on top of the other so fast it was like a big 
eye winking through the clouds. One second the 
hills and coulees would show plain as day, and next 



RAW GOLD 139 



you'd have to feel to find the ears of your horse. 
I pulled up, for I didn't care to go down there with 
all that lightning-play to make a shining mark of 
me, and while I sat there wondering how long it 
was going to last, a long, sizzling streak went zig- 
zagging up out of the north and another out of the 
east, and when they met overhead and the white 
glare spread over the clouds, it was like the sun 
breaking out over the whole country. It lit up every 
ridge and hollow for two or three seconds, and 
showed me four riders tearing up the slope at a 
high run. I don't think they saw me at all, for 
they passed me, in the dark that shut down after 
that flash of lightning, so close that I could hear the 
pat-a-pat of the hoofs. And when the next flash 
came they were out of sight. 

"Right after that the rain hit me like a cloud- 
burst. That was over quick, and by the time it had 
settled to a drizzle I was down in the paymaster's 
camp. Things were sure in an uproar there. Two 
men killed, two more crippled, and the paymaster 
raving like a maniac. I hadn't been far wide of 



140 RAW GOLD 



the mark. The men that passed me on the ridge 
had held up the outfit — and looted fifty thousand 
dollars in cold cash." 

"Fifty thousand— the devil!" I broke in. "And 
they got away with it ?" 

"With all the ease in the world," MacRae an- 
swered calmly. "They made a sneak on the camp 
in the dark, clubbed both sentries, and had their 
guns on the rest before they knew what was wrong. 
They got the money, and every horse in camp. The 
shooting I heard came ofiF as they started away with 
the plunder. Some of the troopers grabbed up their 
guns and cut loose at random, and these hold-up 
people returned the compliment with deadly ef- 
fect. 

"That isn't all," he continued moodily. "I stayed 
there till daylight, and then gathered up their stock. 
All the thieves wanted of the horses was to set the 
outfit afoot for the time being — a trick which bears 
the earmarks of the bunch that got in their work 
on us. They had turned the horses loose a mile or 
so away, and I found them grazing together. When 



RAW GOLD 141 



I'd brought them in I got a bite to eat and came 
on about my own business. 

"Up on the ridge, close by the spring I had 
stopped at, I came slap on their track; the four 
horses had pounded a trail in the wet sod that a 
kid could follow. I tore back to the paymaster's 
camp and begged him to get his men mounted and 
we would follow it up. But he wouldn't listen to 
such a thing. I don't know why, unless he had 
some money they had overlooked and was afraid 
they might come back for another try at him. So 
I went back and hit the trail alone. It led south 
for a while, and then east to Sage Creek. This was 
day before yesterday, you sabe. Near noon I found 
a place where they'd cached two extra horses in the 
brush on Sage Creek. After that their track turned 
straight west again, and it was hard to follow, for 
the ground was drying fast. Finally I had to quit— 
couldn't make out hoof-marks any more. And it 
was so late I had to lie out that night. I got to 
Pend d' Oreille yesterday morning two or three 
hours after you fellows left for the crossing." 



142 RAW GOLD 



I haven't quite got a gambler's faith in a hunch, 
or presentiment, or intuitive conclusion — whatever 
term one chooses to apply — but from the moment he 
spoke of seeing four riders on a ridge during that 
frolic of the elements, a crazy idea kept persistently 
turning over and over in my mind ; and when Mac 
got that far I blurted it out for what it was worth, 
prefacing it with the happenings of the trip from 
Walsh to Pend d' Oreille. He listened without 
manifesting the interest I looked for, tapping idly 
on the saddle-horn, and staring straight ahead with 
an odd pucker about his mouth. 

"I was just going to ask you if you all came 
through together," he observed, in a casual tone. 
*'I neglected to say that I got a pretty fair look at 
those fellows. In fact, I wouldn't hesitate to swear 
to the face of the gentleman who rode in the lead 
of the four." 

"You did? Was it — was my hunch right?" I 
'demanded eagerly. 

"I could turn in my saddle and shoot his eye out," 
MacRae responded whimsically. "And I don't 



RAW GOLD 143 



know but that would be more than justice. Of 
course, the others were the men, but I'm positive of 
Gregory. You see what we're up against, Sarge. 

"That's why," he soberly concluded, "I think 
we'll have our hands full if we do locate that stuff. 
It's a big chunk of money, and a little thing like 
killing a man or two won't trouble them. We'll 
be watched every minute of the time that we prowl 
around those painted rocks; that's a cinch. And 
when we've pulled the chestnut out of the fire they'll 
gobble it — if there's the ghost of a chance." 

While I was digesting this unpalatable informa- 
tion, Hicks and Gregory spurred abreast of us; for 
the remainder of the journey we four rode elbow to 
elbow, and conversation was scant. 

Mid-afternoon found us camped under the Stone. 
Once on the ground, I began to think we were in no 
immediate danger of getting our throats cut for the 
sake of the treasure. Rutter had said "under the 
Stone" — and the vagueness of his words came home 
to me with considerable force, for the Stone, rough- 
ly estimated, was a good mile in length. It paral- 



144 RAW GOLD 



leled the river, a perpendicular wall of gray sand- 
stone. An aptly-named place; wherever a ledge 
offered foothold, and even in places that seemed 
wholly beyond reach of human hands, the bald front 
of the cliff was chiseled with rude traceries — the 
picture-writing of the Blackfoot tribe. The history 
of a thousand battles and buffalo-hunts was written 
there. And somewhere at the foot of that mile-long 
cliff, under the uncouth figures carved by the red 
men in their hour of triumphant ease, rested that 
which we had come to find. I sat with my back 
against a cottonwood and smoked a cigarette while 
I considered the impassive front of Writing-On- 
the-Stone; and the fruit of my consideration was 
that he who sought for the needle in the haystack 
had no more difficult task than ours. 

In due time we ate supper, and dark spread its 
mantle over the land. Then MacRae and I crawled 
up on a projecting ledge of rock to roll out our 
blankets — in a place where we could not well be 
surprised. Not that either of us anticipated any- 
thing of the sort so early in the game; when we 



RAW GOLD 145 



had found what we were after, that would come. 
But the mere fact that we were all playing a part 
made us incline to caution. I don't know if we 
betrayed our knowledge or suspicions to Hicks and 
Gregory, but it was a good deal of an effort to 
treat those red-handed scoundrels as if they were 
legitimate partners in a risky enterprise. We had 
to do it, though. Until they showed their hand we 
could do nothing but stand pat and wait for de- 
velopments; and if they watched us unobtrusively, 
we did the same by them. It is not exactly soothing 
to the nerves, however, to be in touch all day and 
then lie down to sleep at night within a few feet 
of men whom you imagine are only awaiting the 
proper moment to introduce a chunk of lead into 
your system or slip a knife under your fifth rib. 
I can't truthfully say that I slept soundly on that 
ledge. 



CHAPTER XII. 

WE LOSE AGAIN. 

THREE days later MacRae and I scaled the 
steep bank at the west end of the cliff and 
threw ourselves, panting, on the level that 
ran up to the sheer drop-off. When we had re- 
gained the breath we'd lost on that Mansard-roof 
climb we drew near to the edge, where we could 
stare into the valley three hundred feet below while 
we made us a cigarette apiece, We were just a 
mite discouraged. Beginning that first morning at 
the east end of the Writing-Stone we had worked 
west, conning the weather-worn face of it for a 
mark that would give a clue to the cache. Also we 
had scanned carefully the sandy soil patches along 
the boulder-strewn base, seeking the tell-tale foot- 
prints of horse or man. And we had found nothing. 
Each day the conviction grew stronger upon us that 
finding that gold would be purely chance, a miracle 
of luck; systematic search had so far resulted \ti 



RAW GOLD 147 



nothing but blistered heels from much walking. 
And unless we did find it, thereby giving the gentle- 
men of the mask some incentive to match them- 
selves against us once more, we were not likely 
to have the opportunity of breaking up a nervy 
bunch of murdering thieves. 

We reasoned that the men whose guns we had 
looked into over Rutter's body and those who 
robbed the paymaster on the MacLeod trail were 
tarred with the same stick; likewise, that even now 
two of them ate out of the same pot with us three 
times daily. The thing was to prove it. Person- 
ally, the paymaster's trouble was none of my con- 
cern ; what I wanted was to get back that ten thou- 
sand dollars, or deal those hounds ten thousand 
dollars' worth of misery. Not that I wasn't willing 
to take a long chance to help Lyn to her own, but 
I was human enough to remember that I had a good 
deal at stake myself. It was a rather depressed 
stock-hand, name of Flood, who blew cigarette 
smoke out over the brow of Writing-Stone that 
evening. 



148 RAW GOLD 



Mac finished smoking and ground the stub into 
the earth with his heel. For another minute or two 
he sat there without speaking, absently flipping peb- 
bles over the bank. 

"I reckon we might as well poke along the top 
to camp," he said at last, getting to his feet. "I sent 
that breed back, down there, so we could talk with- 
out having to keep cases on him. This is beginning 
to look like a hopeless case, isn't it?" 

"Somewhat," I admitted. "I did think that Rut- 
ter's description would put us on the right track 
when we got there; but I can't see much meaning 
in it now. I suppose we'll just have to keep on 
going it blind." 

"We'll have to stay with it while there's any 
chance," he said thoughtfully. "But I've been 
thinking that it might be a good plan to take a fall 
out of those two." He jerked his thumb in the 
direction of camp. "If we have sized things up 
right, they'll make some sort of move, and if we're 
mistaken there will be no harm done. I'll tell you 
an idea that popped into my head a minute ago. 



RAW GOLD 149 



We can pretend to locate the stuff. Fix up a couple 
of dummy sacks, you know, and get them to camp 
and packed on the horse without letting them see 
what's inside. If Lyn gave Lessard the right fig- 
ures, there should be between a hundred and forty 
or fifty pounds of dust. It's small in bulk, but 
weighty as a bad conscience. If we had a couple of 
little sacks we could get around that problem, easy 
enough — this black sand along the river would pass 
for gold-dust in weight. We could make the proper 
sort of play, and give them the chance they're look- 
ing for. If they make a break it'll be up to us to 
get the best of the trouble." 

"It might work," I replied. "If you think it 
would make them tip their hand, I'm with you. 
This watch-the-other- fellow business is making me 
nervous as an old woman. Once we had those two 
dead to rights they might let out something that 
would enable us to land the whole bunch, and the 
plunder besides; once we had them rounded up we 
could come back here and hunt for Hank Rowan's 
gold-dust in peace." 



150 RAW GOLD 



' "YouVe got the idea exactly, and we'll see what 
we can do in the morning," Mac returned. "But 
don't get married to the notion that they'll cough 
up all they know, right off the reel. Hicks might, 
if you went at him hard enough. But not the other 
fellow. Gregory's game clear through — he's dem- 
onstrated that in different ways since I've been in 
the Force. You could carve him to pieces without 
hearing a cheep, if he decided to keep his mouth 
shut. And he's about as dangerous a man in a 
scrimmage as I know. If there's a row, don't over- 
look Mr. Gregory." 

We hoofed it toward camp as briskly as our 
galled feet would permit, for the sun was getting 
close to the sky line, and talked over Mac's scheme 

as we went. There was no danger of being over- 
heard on that bench. As a matter of fact, Hicks and 
Gregory didn't know we were up there; at least, 
they were not supposed to know. MacRae had 
made a practice of leaving one or the other in camp, 
in case some prowling Indians should spy our horses 
and attempt to run them off. That afternoon Hicks 



RAW GOLD 151 



had been on guard. When Mac started Gregory 

back he told him that we would be along presently, ] 

then sal himself down on a rock and watched the | 

breed. When he was far enough up the flat to lose j 

track of our movements we dropped into a con- I 
venient washout and sneaked along it to the foot 

of the bank, where a jutting point of rock hid sight | 
of us climbing the hill. 

We had no thought of spying on them, at first — * I 

it was simply to be rid of their onerous presence j 

for a while, and getting on the bench was an after- i 

thought. But as we came opposite camp, MacRae  

took a notion to look down and see what they were I 

about. At a point which overlooked the bottom i 

I 

some two hundred yards from the east end of the | 

Stone, we got down on our stomachs and wriggled | 

carefully to the naked rim of the cliff. For some i 
time we laid there, peering down at the men below. 

Hicks was puttering around the fire, evidently cook- j 

ing supper, and Gregory was moving the picket rope i 

of his horse to fresh grass. There was nothing i 

out of the ordinary to be seen, and I drew back. \ 



152 RAW GOLD 



But MacRae still kept his place. When he did back 
away from the edge, he had the look of a man who 
has made some important discovery. 

"On my soul, I believe I've found it," he calmly 
announced. 

"What!" 

"I believe I have," he repeated, a trace of exulta- 
tion in his tone. "At least, it amounts to the same 
thing. Crawl up there again, Sarge, and look 
straight down at the first ledge from the bottom. 
Hurry; you won't see anything if the sun has left 
it. And be careful how you show your head. We 
don't want to get them stirred up till we have 
to." 

Cautiously I peeped over the brink, straight down 
as Mac had directed. The shadow that follows on 
the heels of a setting sun was just creeping over 
the ledge, but the slanting rays lingered long enough 
to give me sight of a glittering patch on the gray 
stone shelf below. While I stared the sun with- 
drew its fading beams from the whole face of the 
cliff, but even in the duller light a glint of yellow 



RAW GOLD 153 



showed dimly, a pin point of gold in the deepening 
shadow. 

Gold ! I drew back from the rim of Writing-On- 
the-Stone, that set of whispered phrases echoing in 
my ears. Mac caught my eye and grinned. ''Gold 
— raw gold — on the rock — above." I mouthed the 
words parrotlike, and he nodded comprehendingly. 

*'0h, thunder!" I exclaimed. *'Do you reckon 
that's what he meant?" 

''What else?" Mac reasoned. 'They'd mark the 
place somehow — and aren't those his exact words? 
What dummies we were not to look on those ledgea 
before. You can't see the surface of them from 
the flat; and we might have known they would 
hardly put a mark where it could be seen by any 
pilgrim who happened to ride through that bot^ 
tom." 

"Hope youVe right," I grunted optimistically. 

"We'll know beyond a doubt, in the morning,'* 
Mac declared. "To-night we w^on't do anything but 
eat, drink, and sleep as sound as possible, for to- 
morrow we may have one hell of a time. I prefer 



154 RAW GOLD 



to have a few hours of daylight ahead of us when 
we raise that cache. Things are apt to tighten, and 
I don't like a rumpus in the dark. Just now I'm 
hungry. If that stuff is there, it will keep. Come 
on to camp; our troubles are either nearly over or 
just about to begin in earnest." 

We followed the upland past the end of the 
Stone till we found a slope that didn't require wings 
for descent. If Hicks or Gregory wondered at our 
arrival from the opposite direction in which we 
should have appeared, they didn't betray any un- 
seemly curiosity. Supper and a cigarette or two 
consumed the twilight hour, and when dark shut 
down we took to our blankets and dozed through 
the night. 

At daybreak we breakfasted. Without a word to 
any one MacRae picked up his carbine and walked 
out of camp. I followed, equally silent. It was 
barely a hundred yards to the ledge, and I caught 
myself wishing it were a good deal farther — out of 
range of those watchful eyes. I couldn't help won- 



RAW GOLD 155 



dering how it would feel to be potted at the moment 
of discovery. 

"I thought I'd leave them both behind, and let 
them take it out in guessing," Mac explained, when 
we stood under the rock shelf upon which we had 
looked down the evening before. "We're right 
under their noses, so they won't do anything till the 
stuff's actually in sight." 

He studied the face of the cliff for a minute. 
The ledge jutted out from the towering wall approx- 
imately twenty feet above our heads, but it could 
be reached by a series of jagged points and knobs ; 
a sort of natural stairway — though some of the 
steps were a long way apart. Boulders of all shapes 
and sizes lay bedded in the soft earth where we 
stood. 

You shin up there, Sarge," Mac commanded, 
and locate that mark. It ought to be an easy 
climb." 

I "shinned," and reached the ledge with a good 
deal of skin peeled from various parts of my per- 
son. The first object my eye fell upon as I hoisted 



<r 



(t 



156 RAW GOLD 



myself above the four-foot shelf was a dull, yellow 
spot on the gray rock, near enough so that I could 
lean forward and touch it with my fingers. A two- 
inch circle of the real thing — I'd seen enough gold 
in the raw to know it without any acid test — ham- 
mered into the coarse sandstone. I pried it up with 
the blade of my knife and looked it over. Orig- 
inally it had been a fair-sized nugget. Hans or 
Rowan had pounded it into place with the back of 
a hatchet (the corner-marks told me that), flatten- 
ing it to several times its natural diameter. I threw 
it down to MacRae, and looked carefully along the 
ledge. There was no other mark that I could see; 
I began to wonder if we were as hot on the scent 
as we had thought. 

"Is there a loose piece of rock up there?" Mac 
called presently. ''If there is, set it on the edge, in 
line with where this was." 

I found a fragment about the size of my fist and 
set it on the rim of the ledge. He squinted up at it 
a moment, then nodded, smiling. 

"Come on down now, Sarge," he grinned; and, 



RAW GOLD 157 



seating himself on a rock with the carbine across 
his knees, he began to roll a cigarette, as if the find- 
ing of Hank Rowan's gold-cache were a thing of 
no importance whatever. 

"Well," I began, when I had negotiated that pre- 
carious succession of knobs and notches and accu- 
mulated a fresh set of bruises, "why don't you get 
busy? How much wiser are you now? Where's 
your gold-dust?" 

He took a deliberate puff and squinted up at the 
ledge again. "I'm sitting on it, as near as I can 
figure," he coolly asserted. 

"Yes, you are," I fleered. "I'm from Missouri !" 

"Oh, you're a doubting Thomas of the first 
water," he said. "Stand behind me, you con- 
founded unbeliever. Kink your back a little and 
look over that stone you set for a mark. Do you 
see anything that catches your attention?" 

Getting in the position he suggested, I looked up. 
Away back in the days before the white man was 
a power to be reckoned with in the Indian's scheme 
of things, some warrior had stood upon that self- 



158 RAW GOLD 



same ledge and hacked out with a flint chisel what 
he and his fellows doubtless considered a work of 
art. Uncanny-looking animals, and uncannier fig- 
ures that might have passed for anything from an 
articulated skeleton to a Missing Link, cavorted 
in a long line across that tribal picture-gallery. Be- 
tween each group of figures the face of the rock 
was scored with mysterious signs and rudely limned 
weapons of war and chase. Right over the stone 
marker, a long-shafted war-lance was carved — the 
blade pointing down. MacRae's seat, stone-marker, 
and aboriginal spearhead; the three lined up like 
the sights of a modern rifle. The conclusion, in the 
light of what we knew from Rutter, was obvious, 
even to a lunkhead like myself. 

"It looks like you might have struck it," I was 
constrained to admit. 

Mac threw away his cigarette. "Here and now 
is where we find out," he declared. 

Worming our fingers under the edge of the boul- 
der, we lifted with all the strength that was in us. 
For a second it seemed that we could never budge 




BEDDED IN' THE SOFT EAUTH UNDERNEATH LAY THE SLI.M BUCKSKIN SACKS. 

Page 159. 



RAW GOLD 159 



it Then it began to rise slowly, so slowly that I 
thought the muscles of my back would snap, and 
MacRae's face close by mine grew red and then 
purple with the strain. But it moved, and presently 
a great heave turned it over. Bedded in the soft 
earth underneath lay the slim buckskin sacks. Our 
fingers, I remember, trembled a bit as we stood one 
on end and loosened its mouth to make sure if we 
had found the treasure for 'which two men had al- 
ready lost their lives. 

"Here" — Mac handed me his carbine — "you stay 
with the yellow temptation. From now on we'll 
have to keep a close eye on this stuff, and likewise 
have our guns handy. I'll make those fellows pack 
up and bring the horses here. Then we'll load this 
and pull for Walsh." 

His first move was to saddle his black horse and 
my dun. These he led to the fire, and thereafter 
stood a little to one side, placidly consuming a 
cigarette while the other two packed the camp-outfit 
and saddled their own mounts. Then they trailed 



160 RAW GOLD 



across the flat toward me, MacRae blandly bringing 
up the rear. He wasn't taking any chances. 

Half an hour later, with the sacks of gold se- 
curely lashed on the aparejos of the pack-horse, we 
climbed out of Writing-Stone bottom and swung 
away over the silent tablelands. 

With Writing-on-the-Stone scarcely three miles 
behind, the long-abandoned burrow of a badger be- 
trayed us into the hands of the enemy. (What a 
power for thwarting the plans of men little things 
sometimes exercise!) We had contrived that Greg- 
ory should lead the pack-horse, which gave MacRae 
and me both hands to use in case of a hostile demon- 
stration; that there would be such, neither of us 
doubted from the moment those two laid eyes on 
the buckskin sacks. The sidelong, covetous glance 
that passed between them bespoke what was in their 
minds. And from that time on the four of us were 
like so many open-headed casks of powder sitting by 
a fire; sooner or later a spark would bring the ex- 
plosion. We had them at a disadvantage trotting 
across the level upland, Gregory in the lead and 



RAW GOLD 161 



Hicks sandwiched between Mac and myself — until 
MacRae's horse planted his foreleg to the knee in 
an old badger-hole hidden under a rank accumula- 
tion of grass. The black pitched forward so sud- 
denly that Mac had no time to swing clear, and as 
he went down under the horse Gregory's agile brain 
grasped the opportunity of the situation, and his 
gun flashed out of its scabbard. 

My hand flew to mine as I jerked the dun up 
short, but I wasn't fast enough — and Hicks was 
too close. It was a trilogy of gun-drawing. Greg- 
ory drew his and fired at MacRae with the devilish 
quickness of a striking rattler; I drew with intent 
to get Mr. Gregory ; and Hicks drew his and slapped 
me over the head with it, even as my finger curled 
on the trigger. My gun went off, I know — after- 
ward I had a dim recollection of a faint report — but 
whether the bullet went whistling into the blue 
above or buried itself in the broad bosom of the 
Territory, I can't say. Things ceased to happen, 
right then and there, so far as I was concerned. 
And I haven't satisfied myself yet why Hicks struck 



162 RAW GOLD 



instead of shooting ; unless he had learned the fron- 
tier lesson that a bullet in a vital spot doesn't always 
incapacitate a man for deadly gun-play, while a 
hard rap on the head invariably does. It wasn't any 
scruple of mercy, for Hicks was as cold-blooded a 
brute as ever glanced down a gun-barrel. 

When my powers of sight and speech and hearing 
returned, MacRae stood over me, nowise harmed. 
The black horse lay where he had fallen. I sat up 
and glanced about, thankful that I was still in the 
flesh, but in a savage mood for all that. This, 
thought I, is a dismal-looking outcome — two men 
and a dead horse left high and dry on the sun- 
flooded prairie. And a rampant ache in my head, 
seconded by a medium-sized gash in the scalp, didn't 
make for an access of optimism at that moment. 

"Well," I burst out profanely, "we lose again, 
eh?" 

"Looks like it," Mac answered laconically. Then 
he whirled about and walked to a little point some 
distance away, where he stood with his back to me, 
looking toward Lost River. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

OUTLAWED. 

I SAT where I was for a while, fingering my sore 
head and keeping my thoughts to myself, for I 
had a keen sense of the mood he was in. For 
the second time, through no fault of his own, he 
had failed to live up to that tradition of the Force 
which accepts nothing short of unqualified victory 
for a Mounted Policeman when he clashes with 
breakers of the law. And, in addition, he had let 
slip through his fingers a fortune that belonged to a 
woman for whom he cared a great deal more than 
he was willing to admit. I felt pretty small and 
ashamed myself, to think of the ease with which 
they had left us afoot on the bald prairie after all 
our scheming, our precaution against something 
we were sure would happen; and there was no 
responsibility on my shoulders — except for that ten 
thousand of La Pere's, which I was beginning to 
think I'd looked my last upon. Mac had not only 



164 RAW GOLD 



the knowledge of personal failure — bitter enough, 
itself, to a man of his temperament — to gnaw at 
him, but the prospect of another grilling from the 
powers in gold braid. It would have been strange 
if he hadn't felt blue. 

He came back, however, in a few minutes, and 
squatting beside me abstractedly got out papers and 
tobacco. 

"I suppose that bunch will quijt the country now," 
he remarked at length. "They've got their hands 
on a heap of money in the last ten days; all they'll 
have a chance to grab for some time. And they've 
come out into the open. So there's not much doubt 
of their next move — they'll be on the wing." 

"Well, we have a cinch on identifying them now," 
I commented. "We've got that much out of the 
deal. If the Mounted Police are half as good man- 
hunters as they are said to be, they ought to round 
up that bunch in short order. Did the black hurt 
you when he fell?" 

"Bruised my leg some," he returned indifferently. 
Then, scowling at the remembrance: "If he hadn't 



RAW GOLD 165 



caught me right under him I'd have got action on 
those two. But the jar threw my six-shooter where 
I couldn't reach it, and the carbine was jammed in 
the stirrup-leather on the wrong side. I reckon 
Gregory thought he got me first shot. He would 
have, too, only Crow threw up his head and stopped 
the bullet instead of me. They had ducked into that 
coulee by the time I got clear. Hicks grabbed your 
horse and took him along. I'm somewhat puzzled 
to know why they didn't stand pat and make a clean 
job of us both. Blast them, anyway!" 

"Same here, and more of it," I fervently ex- 
claimed. 

"Come on, let's get out of here," Mac abruptly 
proposed. "We'll have to make Pend d' Oreille and 
send word to Walsh. It'll take the whole force to 
catch them now." 

My gun lay where it had fallen when Hicks 
whacked me over the head. I picked it up, replaced 
the empty cartridge, and shoved it back into the 
scabbard. MacRae hoisted the carbine to his shoul- 
der, and we started. 



166 RAW GOLD 



We poked along slowly at first, for I was still 
a bit dizzy from that blow. Before long we came 
to a spring seeping from the hillside, and when I 
had bathed my head in the cool water I began to 
feel more like myself. Thereafter, we tramped 
silently across high, dry benches, slid and scrambled 
to the bottoms of an endless succession of coulees, 
and wearily climbed the steep banks that lay beyond. 
The cool morning wind died away; the sun reeled 
up on its appointed circle, glaring brazenly into 
every nook and cranny in the land. Underfoot, the 
dry sod grew warm, then hot, till the soles of our 
boots became instruments of torture to feet that 
were sadly galled by fruitless tramping around the 
Stone. When a man has grown up in the habit of 
mounting a horse to travel any distance over three 
hundred yards, a walk of twenty undulating miles 
over a network of bald ridges and yawning coulees 
makes him think that a sulphur-and-brimstone here- 
after can't possibly hold much discomfort that he 
hasn't sampled. A cowpuncher in high-heeled 
riding-boots is handicapped for pedestrianism by 



RAW GOLD 167 



both training and inclination — and that scarred and 
wrinkled portion of the Northwest is a mighty poor 
strolling-ground for any man. 

But we kept on, for the simple reason that there 
was nothing else we could do. MacRae wasted no 
breath in words. If the heat and the ungodly steep- 
ness of the hills and the luke-warm water that 
trickled along the creek channels ruffled his temper, 
he made no noise about it, only pressed doggedly 
toward Pend d' Oreille. I daresay he thought I 
was attending to that part of it, registering a com- 
plaint for both of us. And if I didn't rise to the 
occasion it was the fault of my limited vocabulary. 
I kept a stiff backbone for a while, but presently a 
futile rage against circumstances bubbled up and 
boiled over. I climbed each succeeding canyon wall 
oozing perspiration and profanity, and when the top 
was reached took fresh breath and damned the 
Northwest by sections in a large, fluent manner of 
speech. In time, however, the foolishness of this 
came home to me, and I subsided into spasmodic 
growling, saving my wind for the miles yet to cover. 



168 RAW GOLD 



Well past noon we reached the summit of a hog- 
backed ridge that overlooked the tortuous windings 
of Lost River, a waterless channel between banks 
that were void of vegetation. The crest of the 
divide was studded with great outcroppings of sand- 
stone, and in the shadow of one giant rock we laid 
dawn to rest before we descended into that barren 
valley where the heat-waves shimmered like crepon 
silk. The cool bit of earth was good to stretch 
upon; for nearly an hour we laid there, beyond 
reach of the glowing sun; it was worth almost the 
treasure we had lost to ease our aching feet. Then 
reluctantly we started again. 

As we stepped from behind the rock three riders 
came into sight on the opposite slope of Lost River. 
A moment's scrutiny assured us that they were 
Mounted Policemen. From habit our eyes swept 
the surrounding country, and in a moment we ob- 
served other groups of mounted men, an equal dis- 
tance apart and traveling in the same general direc- 
tion — like a round-up sweeping over a cattle-range. 

"They're out for somebody. I shouldn't be sur- 



RAW GOLD 169 



prised if they have smelled out our friends," said 
MacRae. "And seeing this bunch is heading right 
toward us, we might as well take it easy here till 
they come up." 

Returning to the cool shade, we waited till they 
crossed that miniature desert. I looked once or 
twice, and hoped we would not have to walk over it ; 
I'd seen the Mohave and the Staked Plains, and I 
knew it was sizzling hot in that ancient river-bed — 
it is hot, and dry, when the heat-waves play tricks 
with objects seen from afar. Those three riders 
moved in a transparent haze, distorted, grotesque 
figures; now giants, broad, uncouth shapes; now 
pigmies astride of horses that progressed slowly on 
long, stiltlike legs, again losing form and waving 
like tall, slender trees swayed by vagrant winds. 
After a time they ascended above the level where 
the superheated atmosphere played its pranks, and 
came riding up the ridge in their true presentment. 
When they got within shouting distance we stepped 
into the sunlight and hailed them. 

From the moment that they jerked up their horses 



170 RAW GOLD 



at MacRae's call, I had an odd sense of impending 
trouble. For an instant it seemed as if they were 
about to break for cover ; and when they approached 
us there was a strained, expectant expression on 
each tanned face, a wariness in their actions that 
looked unnatural to me. The nearer they came the 
more did I feel keyed up for some emergency. I 
can't explain why; that's something that I don't 
think will bear logical analysis. Who can explain 
the sixth sense that warns a night-herder of a 
stampede a moment before the herd jumps off the 
bed-ground? But that is how I felt — and imme- 
diately it transpired that there was good reason. 

They stopped their horses within ten feet of us 
and dismounted, all three of them, a corporal and 
two privates, in the same breath that we said "hello." 
The corporal, rather chalky-looking under his tan, 
stepped forward and laid a hand on MacRae's 
shoulder. 

"Gordon MacRae and Sarge Flood, in the 
Queen's name I arrest you for the robbery of Pay- 
master Ingstram on the MacLeod trail and the mur- 



RAW GOLD 171' 



der of two of his escort, and I warn you that any- 
thing you may say will be used against you." 

He poured it out without pause or inflection, like 
a lesson well learned, a little ceremony of speech 
that it was well to hurry over ; and the two troopers 
edged nearer, the right hand of each stealing to- 
ward the pistol that rested on his hip. It took nerve 
to beard us that way, when one comes to think it 
over. If we had been guilty of that raid, it was 
dollars to doughnuts that we would resist arrest, 
and according to the rules and regulations of the 
Force they were compelled to take a long chance. 
A Mounted Policeman can't use his gun except in 
self-defense. He isn't supposed to smoke up a fugi- 
tive unless the fugitive begins to throw lead his way 
— which method of procedure gives a man who is, 
in the vernacular, "on the dodge" all the best of a 
situation like that; for it gives an outlaw a chance 
to take the initiative, and the first shot often settles 
an argument of that kind. The dominating idea, as 
I understood it, was that the majesty of the law 
should prove a sufficiently powerful weapon; and 



172 RAW GOLD 



in the main it did. No thief, murderer, or smuggler 
ever yet successfully and systematically defied it. 
Men have gone to the bad up there — robbed, mur- 
dered, defrauded, killed a Policeman or two, maybe, 
but in the end were gathered in by "the riders of 
the plains" and dealt with according to their just 
deserts. So it has come to pass throughout the 
length and breadth of the Northwest that "in the 
Queen's name'* out of the mouth of an unarmed 
redcoat, with one hand lightly on your shoulder, 
carries more weight than a smoking gun. 

None of this occurred to me, just then. The one 
thing that loomed big in my mind's eye was the 
monstrous injustice of the accusation. Coming 
right on top of what I'd lately experienced at the 
hands of the men who had really done that dirty 
job — my head still tingled from the impact of 
Hicks' pistol — it stirred up all the ugliness I was 
capable of, and a lot that I had never suspected. 
No Fort Walsh guardhouse for me! No lying 
behind barred windows, with my feet chain-hobbled 
like a straying horse, while the slow-moving Cana- 



RAW GOLD 173 



dian courts debated my guilt or innocence! Not 
while I had the open prairie underfoot and the 
summer sky above, and hands to strike a blow or 
pull a trigger. 

Even had I been alone I think that I was crazy 
enough, for the moment, to have matched myself 
single-handed against the three of them. In which 
case I should likely have bidden a premature fare- 
well to all earthly interests — though I might, per- 
haps, have managed to take with me a Policeman 
or two for company on the long trail. But a queer 
look that flashed over MacRae's face, a suggestive 
drawing back of his arm, intimated that something 
of the same was in his mind. Heavens, but a man 
can think a lot in the space of time it takes to count 
three ! 

I jumped for the two troopers, with a frenzied 
notion that I could put them both out of business if 
MacRae would only attend to the corporal. The 
distance didn't permit of gun-play; and, hot as I 
was, I had the sense to know that those men weren't 
responsible for my troubles; I didn't want to kill 



174 RAW GOLD 



them, if I could help it — what I desired above all 
else was to get away, and burn powder with Hicks, 
Gregory and Co., if powder-burning was to be on 
the programme. They did try to pull their guns, 
but I was too close. I spoiled their good intentions 
by kicking one with all the force I could muster, and 
throwing my arms in a fervent embrace about the 
neck of the other. 

A number eight box-toed riding-boot planted sud- 
denly in the pit of one's stomach brings about the 
same result as a kick from a vigorous Missouri 
mule, I should imagine; anyway, that Mounted Po- 
liceman was eliminated as a fighting unit from the 
instant my toe made connections with his person. 
The other fellow and I went to the ground, and our 
struggle was of short duration, for Mac bought into 
the ruction with his carbine for a club, and under 
its soothing touch my wiry antagonist ceased from 
troubling. I scrambled to my feet and glanced 
around. The corporal was sprawled on the grass, 
his face to the sky. 

"We've burned our bridges now, sure as fate," 



RAW GOLD 175 



Mac broke out. *'Here, I'll peel the guns off the 
bunch, and you lead their horses up to the rock 
out -of sight of these other fellows. If they catch 
sight of us milling around here they're apt to swing 
over this way to see what's up." 

I led the horses close to the boulder and left them 
standing there while I hurried back. By that time 
the fellow Fd kicked had so far recovered as to sit 
up, and the look he gave us was a scorcher. Mac- 
Rae, with cocked carbine to emphasize his com.- 
mand, ordered him to drag his comrade to where 
the horses stood; and I followed after, lugging 
the insensible corporal to the same shady place. 

"I want to know the how of this," Mac demanded 
of the trooper. "Who issued orders for our arrest 
on this damn fool charge? And when?" 

"Lessard give us our orders," the Policeman 
growled. "He's been out with a whole bloomin' 
troop ever since he got word the paymaster 'ad bin 
stuck up. We got a commissary along, an' nooned 
about ten miles east o' here. After dinner — about 
two or three hours ago — he lined us up an' said as 



176 RAW GOLD 



'ow he'd got word that you two fellers 'ad bin 
identified as bein' the chaps as pulled off that pay- 
master row, an' that he wanted you. Said he 'ad 
reason t' believe you was some'ers between Lost 
River an' the Stone, an' you was t' be captured 
without fail. An' that's all I know about it," he 
concluded frankly, "except that you fellers is bloody 
fools t' make a break like this. It'll go that much 
'arder with you — there ain't a bloomin' chance for 
you t' get away. You might just as well give up 
peaceable." 

"Oh, don't preach," MacRae protested. "I know 
all that as well as you do. Great Scott! Burky, 
you've known me ever since I joined ; do you imag- 
ine for a minute that I was in on that hold-up? 
Why, you know better. If I'd done anything so 
damned rotten, I'd have been out of the country 
long before this." 

"Orders is orders," Burky sententiously observed. 
"Headquarters sez you're t' be took in, an' you'll 
be took in, no matter what a feller's private opinion 
happens t' be. I ain't no bloomin' judge an' jury t' 



RAW GOLD 177 



set on your case, anyway. You'll get a square trial 
— same as everybody gets. But you ain't a-helpin' 
yourself a-cuttin' of didoes like this," 

''I haven't time to go into details," Mac told him,, 
"and I don't suppose you'd believe me if I did. But 
I've a blamed good reason for not wanting to put 
in several months cooling my heels under guard 
while the men that got the stuff get clear out of the 
country. We're going to take two of these horses,. 
because we'll need them in our business; and we'll 
leave your guns at that big rock down the ridge. 
I don't want to hurt you, Burky, but if you start 
making signals to the rest of the bunch before we 
get out of sight, you'll go back to Walsh feet first. 
So be good. You'll see us again before long." 

When we were ready to mount, MacRae fired 
another question at Burky. "Say, have you seen 
anything of Frank Hicks or Paul Gregory to-day?'* 

"They was both in camp at noon," the trooper- 
replied. 

"Huh! They were, eh?" MacRae swung up^ 
and spoke from the saddle. "Well, if you see them 



178 RAW GOLD 



again, tell them we'll sure give them a hard run 
for the money. And if you've got your month's 
pay on you, Burky, you'd better keep your hand on 
it while those two pilgrims are about." 

We took the third horse along as a precautionary 
measure. At a boulder down the ridge we left him, 
together with their belts, as Mac had promised. The 
only bit of their property we kept besides the horses 
was a pair of field-glasses — something that we knew 
would be priceless to men who were practically out- 
lawed. For the next two hours we slunk like coy- 
otes in coulee-bottoms and deep washouts, until we 
saw the commissary wagon cross the ridge west of 
Lost River, saw from a safe distance the brown 
specks that were riders, casting in wide circles for 
sight of us or our trail. 

Then MacRae leaned over his saddle-horn and 
made a wry face at them. 

"Hunt, confound you," he said, almost cheerfully. 
"We'll give you some hunting to do before you're 
through with us." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

A CLOSE CALL. 

WE were standing in a brushy pocket on the 
side of a hill, and as there was no Imme- 
diate danger of our being, seen, MacRae 
continued, by the aid of the glasses, to follow the 
movements of our would-be captors. 

"D'you know that plunder can't be far away; 
those fellows haven't had much time to make their 
cache/' he reflected, more to himself than to me. 
"I wonder how they accounted to Lessard for us. 
Just think of it — somewhere within twenty miles of 
us there's in the neighborhood of a hundred thou- 
sand dollars of stolen money, planted till they can 
get it safely ; and the men that got away with it are 
helping the law to run us down. That's a new 
feature of the case; one, I must say, that I didn't 
look for." 

He lowered the glasses, and regarded me soberly. 



180 RAW GOLD 



"They fight fire with fire in a grass country," he 
observed. "The Mounted PoHce are a hard forma- 
tion to buck against — but I've a mind to see this 
thing to a finish. How do you feel about it, Sarge ? 
Will you go through?" 

"All the way and back again," I promised reck- 
lessly. I wasn't sure of what he had in mind, but 
I knew him — and seeing that we were in the same 
boat, I thought it fitting that we should sink or 
swim together. 

"We'll come out on top yet," he confidently as- 
serted. "Meantime we'd better locate some secluded 
spot and give our nags a chance to fill up on grass 
and be fresh for to-morrow; we're apt to have a 
hard day." 

"It wouldn't be a bad scheme to fill ourselves at 
the same time," I suggested. "I'm feeling pretty 
vacant inside. The first bunch of bufifalo that has 
a fat calf along is going to hear from me." 

"If we can get over this ridge without being seen, 
there's a canyon with some cottonwoods and a spring 
in it. That will be as good a place to hole up for 



RAW GOLD 181 



the night as we can find," Mac decided. "And there 
will likely be some buffalo near there." 

So we ascended cautiously to the top of the di- 
vide, keeping in the coulees as much as possible, for 
we knew that other field-glasses would be focused 
on the hills. Once over the crest, we halted and 
watched for riders coming our way. But none 
appeared. Once I thought I glimpsed a moving 
speck on the farther bank of Lost River. MacRae 
brought the glasses to bear, and said it was two 
Policemen jogging toward camp. Then we were 
sure that our flight had not been observed, and we 
dropped into a depression that gradually deepened 
to a narrow-bottomed canyon. Two miles down this 
we came to the spring of which MacRae had spoken, 
a tiny stream issuing from a crevice at the foot of 
the bank. What was equally important, a thick 
clump of Cottonwood and willow furnished tolerably 
secure concealment. 

The fates smiled on us in the matter of food very 
shortly. I'm not enamored of a straight meat diet 
as a rule, but that evening I was in no mood to carp 



182 RAW GOLD 



at anything halfway eatable. While we were on 
our stomachs gratefully stowing away a draught of 
the cool water, I heard a buffalo bull lift his voice 
in challenge to another far down the canyon. We 
tied our horses out of sight in the timber and stole 
in the direction of the sound. A glorious bull-fight 
was taking place when we got within shooting-dis- 
tance, the cows and calves forming a noisy circle 
about the combatants, each shaggy brown brute 
bawling with all the strength of bovine lungs; in 
that pandemonium of bellowing and trampling I 
'doubt if the report of Mac's carbine could have 
been heard two hundred yards away. The shot 
served to break up the fight and scatter the herd, 
however, and we returned to the cottonwoods with 
the hind-quarter of a fat calf. 

Hungry as we were, we could hardly bolt raw 
meat, so, taking it for granted that no one was 
likely to ride up on us, we built a fire in the grove, 
being careful to feed it with dry twigs that would 
make little smoke. Over this we toasted bits of 
meat on the end of a splinter, and presently our 



RAW GOLD 183 

hunger was appeased. Then we blotted out the fire, 
and, stretching ourselves on the ground, had re- 
course to the solace of tobacco. 

The longer we laid there the more curious did I 
become as to what line of action MacRae purposed 
to follow. He lay on his back, silent, staring 
straight up at the bit of sky that showed through 
the branches above, and I'd just reached the point 
of asking, when he sat up and forestalled my ques- 
tions. 

*This is going to be risky business, Sarge," he 
began. "But so far as I can see, there is only one 
way that we can hope to get the thing straightened 
out. If we can get hold of Hicks or Bevans, any 
one of the four, in fact, I think we can make him 
tell us all we need to know. It's the only chance 
for you and Lyn to get your money back, and for 
me to square myself." 

"I shouldn't think," I put in resentfully, "that 
you'd want to square yourself, after the dirty way 
you've been treated. I'd as soon take to herding 
sheep, or washing dirty clothes like a Chinaman, as 



184 RAW GOLD 



be a member of the Mounted Police if what I've 
seen in the last ten days is a fair sample of what a 
man can expect." 

"Fiddlesticks !" Mac impatiently exclaimed. "You 
don't know what you're talking about. I tell you 
a man in the Police, if he has any head at all, can 
control his own destiny. You'll be a heap more sane 
when you get that old, wild-west notion, that every 
man should be a law unto himself, out of your 
head. I'll venture to say that the Northwest will 
be a safer and more law-abiding place five years 
from now than south of the line will be in twenty 
— and the men in red coats will make it so. Why, I 
wouldn't miss helping tame this country for half a 
dozen such scrapes as I'm in now. This is merely 
the result of a rotten spot in the personnel, a rotten 
spot that will soon be cut out If things come about 
logically; it isn't the fault of the system. There 
never was any great movement in developing a 
new country that didn't have a quota of damned 
rascals to eliminate from within itself. If you 
ididn't have such a perverted idea of independence, 



RAW GOLD 185 



you'd see that I'm in no danger of losing either my 
identity or my self-respect simply because I've be- 
come a unit in a body of six hundred fighting-men. 
I don't intend to remain in the insignificant-unit 
class." 

"Your intentions/' I interrupted, "will cut a 
mighty small figure if your friend Lessard gets hold 
of you in the next day or two." 

"That's the melancholy truth," he returned seri- 
ously. "I imagine we'd get a pretty rough deal ; in 
fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that troop has re- 
ceived orders, by now, to shoot first and arrest after- 
ward. Still, I'm willing to gamble that if we rode 
into Fort Walsh and gave ourselves up, it would 
only be a matter of a few weeks in the guard- 
house for us before the thing was cleared up." 

"Maybe," I responded skeptically. "If that^s 
your belief, why don't you act accordingly?" 

"Because, confound it, that's just v^here they 
want to get us," he declared. "Once we were safely 
penned, they'll drift, and neither you nor Lyn 
Rowan nor the government would ever lay eyes on 



186 RAW GOLD 



that bundle of money again. I have a theory — but 
what's vastly more important, I think those fellows 
can hardly get out of the country with their plunder 
without crossing trails with us. It was smooth 
business to set the dogs on us. I don't quite sabe — ' 
well, I do, too. You can probably realize just how 
headquarters would take the sort of yarn we'd spin 
if we dashed in and told them the truth. But I 
think we're smart enough to upset these fellows* 
calculations. Lord ! wouldn't it be a stroke of busi- 
ness if we could trap that collection of buccaneers? 
Frankly, that would be the biggest thing that ever 
came my way." 

"It would be equally a stroke of business if they 
happen to trap us," I reminded. 

"They won't," he asserted confidently. "We 
can't afford to let them. We've inflicted a com- 
pound fracture on established law, and until we 
can make the outcome justify our actions, we're 
compelled, in self-defense, to avoid being caught 
It may be a dubious undertaking. But as I see it the 
only thing for us is to hang on the flank of these 



RAW GOLD 187 



man-hunters till we can lay hold of one of that red- 
handed quartette. According to Burky, two of 
them, at least, are in that troop. Probably the 
others are. And knowing that bunch as well as I 
do, I don't think they'll lift the plunder and quit 
the country till they can go together. Even if we 
can't get hold of one of them, we can keep track of 
their movements, and if they do lift their cache and 
pull out, why, that would be as good as we want. 
I wouldn't ask anything better than to get a fair 
chance at that bunch with the stolen money on 
them." 

I'll admit that, soberly considered, MacRae's plan 
did look exceeding risky. No one could appreciate 
better than ourselves the unpleasant possibilities that 
stared us in the face. But things had narrowed to a 
point where only two courses were open to us— one, 
to throw up our hands and quit the jurisdiction of 
the Mounted Police, which involved desertion on 
MacRae's part, and on mine a chicken-hearted aban- 
donment of La Pere's trust in me (for, rightly or 
wrongly, I was given over to the feeling that on me 



188 RAW GOLD 



alone rested the responsibility for the loss or recov- 
ery of La Pere's money) ; the other, to take any 
measure, no matter how desperate, that would un- 
ravel the tangle. All things considered, the latter 
was the logical choice. And the plan Mac had put 
forth seemed as feasible as any. 

*'We'll have to proceed on the faro-bank formula 
that all bets go as they lay," I said lightly. "There's 
no use anticipating things disagreeable or otherwise ; 
we'll simply have to take them as they come." 

By this time dusk was upon us. We picketed the 
horses in the open bottom where grass was more 
plentiful than in the brush, and settled ourselves to 
sleep. Fortunately, the aftermath of that blistering 
day was a fairly warm night. By spreading over 
us the heavy woolen blankets the Mounted Police 
use under their saddles, we slept in comfort. Long 
before dawn, however, we arose, built a fire, and 
breakfasted on buffalo veal, at the same time broil- 
ing a good supply and stowing it in our pockets to 
serve the rest of the day. Then, with darkness still 
obscuring our movements, we saddled and rode over 



RAW GOLD 189 



the ridge and down into Lost River, crossing that 
ancient waterway before the first glimmer of light 
in the east. 

Day found us dismounted in the head of a coulee 
where we could spy on the Police camp from a dis- 
tance of three miles, more or less. About sunrise 
the troop left camp in a body, later spreading fan- 
wise over the prairies. Once a party trotted by 
within a half-mile of us, but no one of the four 
men we wanted to see was in the squad. 

Until after the noon hour we laid perdu in the 
hollow, no wiser for our watching. Then I saw a 
number of riders debouch from the camp, and at 
once trained the glasses on them. At first I couldn't 
distinguish any particular face among so many shift- 
ing forms, but presently they split in two bodies, 
and these again subdivided; and in the bunch com- 
ing toward us I recognized three men, Lessard, un- 
mistakable in his black uniform, Hicks, and Bevans. 
I turned the glasses over to MacRae then. 

"I thought probably some more of our friends 
jvould show up," he said, after a quick survey. 



190 RAW GOLD 



"With those two in sight the chances are that all 
four are with the troop. The other fellows in that 
squad are just plain buck Policemen. Confound 
them, I wish Aha, by Jupiter! the big chief 



is turning off those two. 



>> 



As Mac spoke I saw the two men I had spotted 
as Hicks and Bevans swing away from the rest and 
angle toward Lost River. From our vantage point 
we watched them come abreast and pass us at a 
distance well within a mile. The others turned 
south, directly away from us. 

"Now," Mac coolly declared, "here's where we 
get the chance we want, if we're lucky. We'll keep 
parallel with these gentlemen, and if they get out 
of touch with the rest we'll make a try at nailing 
them. Be careful, though, how you show yourself; 
there's at least fifty of these peacemakers within 
four or five miles, and a shot or a yell will bring 
them on a high run." 

Hicks and Bevans, whatever their destination, 
were in no haste. They rode at a walk most of the 
time, and we were forced to keep the same pace. 



RAW GOLD 191^ 



It was slow work poking along those coulee-bottoms, 
now and then making a risky sneak to ground, 
whence we could get a clear view of the game we 
were stalking so assiduously. 

Progressing in this manner we finally reached the 
breaks that ran down to Lost River, not a great 
distance from where MacRae and I had kicked over 
the traces of legally constituted authority the pre- 
vious day. Here we had to dodge over a stretch 
of ground barren of concealment, and to do so 
waited till such time as Hicks and Bevans were 
themselves in the depths of a coulee. 

When next we caught sight of our men — well, to 
be exact, we saw only one, and that was Bevans. 
He had stopped his horse on top of a knoll not more 

than four hundred yards to the north of us, and 
was standing up in his stirrups staring over the ears 
of his horse at a point down the slope. Hicks had 
disappeared. Nor did we see aught of him during 
the next few minutes that we spent glaring at Bev- 
ans and the surrounding territory. 

"I wonder if that square- jawed devil has got a 



192 RAW GOLD 



glimpse of us and is trying a lone-handed stalk him- 
self ?" I hazarded. 

MacRae shook his head. "Not likely," he said. 
"If it was Paul Gregory, now, that's the very thing 
he'd do. I don't quite sabe this performance." 

We watched for sign of Hicks, but without re- 
sult. Then Bevans got under way and moved along 
at the same poky gait as before. When he had 
gone some distance we took to the hollow. Twenty 
minutes jogging brought us into a stretch of rough 
country, a series of knobs and ridges cut by innu- 
merable coulees. Here it became necessary to locate 
Mr. Bevans again. Once more he was revealed on 
top of an elevation, studying the surrounding land- 
scape, and he was still alone. 

"Where the mischief can Hicks have got to?" 
Mac growled. "We really ought to smell him out 
before we do anything." 

"Look, now," I said. "Don*t you suppose Bevans 
is waiting for him?" 

Bevans had dismounted and stretched himself on 
the ground in the shade of his horse. But he was 



RAW GOLD 193 



not napping; on the contrary, he was very much on 
the alert, for his head turned slowly from side to 
side, quiescent as he seemed; there would be little 
movement pass unobserved within range of that pair 
of eyes. 

"Maybe he is," MacRae replied. "Anyhow, I 
think we'd better wait a while ourselves." 

For nearly an hour Bevans kept his position. 
Hicks, if he were in the vicinity, kept closely under 
cover. Bevans had all the best of the situation, so 
far as being able to keep a lookout was a factor; 
the opposite bank of the coulee we were in towered 
high above us, and shut off our view in that direc- 
tion. And we didn't dare risk showing ourselves 
on high ground. Finally, after what seemed an 
interminable period of waiting, Mac's patience fraz- 
zled out and he declared for action. 

"We're doing no good here," he said. "Hicks 
or no Hicks, I'm going to have a try at making 
connections with his nibs on that hill. I think the 
coulee right under his perch is an arm of the one 



194 RAW GOLD 



we're in ; runs in somewhere below. Maybe we can 
get to him that way. It's worth trying." 

As MacRae had surmised, our canyon forked be- 
low. We turned the point after making sure that 
Bevans couldn't see us unless he moved. But the 
uncertain beggar had moved, and moved to some 
purpose we quickly learned; for when we next laid 
eyes on him he was out on the extreme point of the 
little bench, opposite the mouth of the coulee we 
had ascended, whirling his horse about in cramped 
circles. And in answer to his signaling a full score 
of red-jacketed riders were galloping down the 
ridges, a human comb that bade fair to rake us from 
our concealment in a scant number of minutes. 

"Looks bad for you and me, old boy," MacRae 
grinned. "I see now what brother Hicks has been 
up to. But they haven't got us yet. Whatever hap- 
pens, Sarge, don't get excited and go to shooting. 
We can't win out that way, against this combination. 
If we can't dodge and outrun them we'll have to 
take our medicine. Down the coulee is our only 
chance. There's only Bevans to stop us; and it 



RAW GOLD 195 



won't really matter if we do put his light out — be 
one thief less at the finish." 

Bevans, however, made no demonstration. We 
just got a mere glimpse of him, and I imagine he 
was nowise anxious to try heading us off, whicK 
he could not do without coming into the open. 
Whipping around the crooked bends at top speed, 
he had little chance to pot us, and I think he had 
an idea that we would cheerfully pot him if he got 
in the way. 

We mystified them somewhat, and gained con- 
siderable ground, by that sudden dash, but it wasn't 
long before they were in full cry like a pack of 
hounds, and the carbines began to pop in a futile 
sort of way. Mac had not been far astray when 
he hazarded the guess that the troop would have 
orders to shoot on sight, for they began to peck at 
us the moment we came in view. We had just 
enough of a start, though, and our mounts were 
just good enough and fresh enough to gradually 
draw away from them. And as we were then out 
of the network of protecting coulees and pattering 



196 RAW GOLD 



over the comparative level of Lost River bottoms, 
I was very glad that we were beyond carbine-range 
and that it was near sundown. 

"Barring accidents, they can't get up on us now,'* 
Mac declared. "So I think it'll be wise to keep 
south along the open bottoms. If they see us split- 
ting the breeze down Lost River, they won't look' 
for us to bob up from the opposite quarter to- 
morrow. When it gets dark and we're far enough 
ahead, we can swing into the hills. That'll fool 
them plenty for to-night. They'll probably try 
tracking us to-morrow, but I reckon they'll find that 
a tough job." 

They kept persistently after us, and we were more 
or less on the anxious seat, till it did get dark. Then 
we turned sharp to the left and gained high ground 
once more, congratulating ourselves on so easily 
getting out of a ticklish place. If we hadn't moved 
up on Bevans they might have surrounded us before 
we got wind of them. But we'd beaten them fairly, 
and so we looked back through the dark and 
laughed; though I'm sure we had no ^articular 
cause for merriment. 



CHAPTER XV. 

PIEGAN TAKES A HAND. 

I DON'T, believe a detailed account of how we 
spent that night would be classed as wildly inter- 
esting; if memory serves me right, it was a 
bleak, hungry, comfortless passage of time, and I 
am willing to let it go at that. We managed to 
secure a buffalo steak for breakfast. No man 
needed to starve in that country during those days 
of plentiful game; but we were handicapped by the 
necessity of doing our hunting in a very surrep- 
titious manner. However, we didn't starve; the 
worst we experienced was an occasional period of 
acute hunger, when we didn't dare fire a shot for 
fear of revealing our whereabouts. 

Nor can I see, now, where we accomplished any- 
thing beyond killing time the following day. To 
be sure, we scouted faithfully, and once or twice 
came perilously near being caught by squads of 



198 RAW GOLD 



Mounted Police appearing from unexpected quar- 
ters. Our scouting was so much wasted energy. 
We got nowhere near the PoHce camp; we failed 
to get a glimpse of any of our men; and so, for all 
we knew to the contrary, they might have loaded 
the plunder and decamped for other regions. When 
night again spread its concealing folds about us, 
we had only one tangible fact as a reward for our 
exertions — Lessard had returned to Fort Walsh — 
presumably. Early that morning, escorted by four 
troopers, he had crossed Lost River and disappeared 
in the direction of the post Of his identity the 
field-glasses assured us. But that was the sum total 
of our acquired knowledge, and it brought us no 
nearer the breaking up of the Goodell-Gregory 
combination or the recovery of the loot. 

So for a third night we were compelled to seek 
sanctuary in the silent canyons. And the third day 
brought us no better luck. At evening we were con- 
strained to admit that we were simply butting our 
heads against a wall — with an ever-present possi- 
bility of the wall toppling over and crushing us flat. 



RAW GOLD 190^ 



Altogether, we spent five consecutive days hover- 
ing around that collection of law-enforcers, in im« 
minent risk of capture. Each night in the open was 
more cheerless than the preceding one, and each day 
brought the same sense of futile effort at its close. 
Twice during that time the Police camp moved, and 
we had to be wary, for they scoured the surrounding 
territory with painstaking thoroughness. But we 
felt that there was yet a chance for us to turn the 
tables, for Goodell was still with the troop, and also 
Gregory ; we saw them both the morning of the fifth 
day. 

"It beats me why they're pecking around over the 
same ground so much," ]\Iac observed. "I suppose 
they're looking for us, but I'm pretty sure they 
haven't had a glimpse of us for three days, and so 
I don't see why they should think we're still hanging 
around. Logically, if we'd got that bunch of 
money, we'd be getting out of the country. Lord, 
I do wish those four would show their hand — make 
a move of some kind." 

"So do I," I seconded. "We're not doing much 



200 RAW GOLD 



good that I can see. And I think I could play the 
game with a heap more enthusiasm if I had some 
coffee and white bread under my belt once or twice 
a day. We'll go hungry, and likewise get a devilisH 
good soaking to-night, or I'm badly mistaken." 

We had checked our horses on the summit of the 
divide that ran down to Lost River on one side and 
on the other sloped away to the spptheast. The 
wind that was merely a breath at sundown had 
gathered strength to itself and now swept across 
the hill-tops with a resonant roar, piling layer on 
layer of murky low-flying clouds into a dense mass 
overhead. Night, black as the bottomless pit, walled 
us in. A fifty-mile breeze lashed us spitefully, 
tugging at our shirt-sleeves and drowning our 
voices, while we halted on that pinnacle. By the 
dank breath of the wind, the ominous overcasting 
of the sky, all the little signs that a prairie-wise man 
learns to read, we knew that a storm was close at 
hand. Shelter there was none, nor food, and we 
stood in need of both. 

"You're right," MacRae admitted. "But how 



RAW GOLD 201 



are we going to help it? We'll just have to grin 
and tough it out." 

"I'll tell you how we'll help it," I proposed reck- 
lessly, shouting to make myself heard above the 
noisy wind. "We can go down and tackle that bull- 
train we saw pulling along the foot of the ridge. 
They'll know we're on the dodge, but that won't 
make any difference to them. I know nearly every 
bull-whacker that freights out of Benton, and 
they're a pretty white bunch. If it's Baker's outfit, 
especially, we'll be welcome as flowers in May. 
You said they'd likely camp at that spring — Ten 
Mile, isn't it? What d'ye think? Shall we go 
down and take a chance ? I sure don't like the look 
of things up here. It's going to be a rip-snorter of 
a night, once it cuts loose." 

"I'm ready to go against nearly anything, right 
now," MacRae frankly owned. "If you think it's 
worth trying, why, it's a go with me." 

"Let's drift, then," I declared; and straightway 
we turned our horses broadside to the wind and 
tore away for Ten Mile Spring and the creature 



202 RAW GOLD 



comforts I knew were to be had at the white- 
sheeted wagons we saw crawling slowly along the 
Stony Crossing trail late that afternoon. 

As Mac had calculated, the freight-train was 
camped at the Spring; and it was a mighty good 
thing for us that MacRae knew that country so 
well or we would never have found them, short of 
riding our horses to a standstill. Long before we 
got there the deep-throated thunder was growling 
over us, and the clouds spat occasional flurries of 
rain. 

We made the freight camp, however, just as the 
storm cut loose in deadly earnest. Luckily for me, 
it was Baker's outfit. I took a long chance, and 
stalked boldly in. And here I was treated to a 
surprise, one that afforded both MacRae and me 
considerable food for thought ; Horner, the wagon- 
boss, a man I knew well, frankly declared that no 
one at Fort Walsh had heard that we were accused 
of robbery and murder. For that matter, he said, 
he didn't care a tinker's dam if we were; he had 
grub and bedding and we were welcome to both. 



RAW GOLD 203 



So with this assurance of good-will we picketed 
our horses close by the circle of wagons — where we 
could get to them quickly should any of Lessard's 
troop happen into the camp — and prepared to de- 
vour the supper Horner's good-natured cook be- 
stirred himself to make ready. As we filled our 
plates and squatted under the canvas that sheltered 
the cook's Dutch-oven layout, a man under the hind 
end of the chuck-wagon propped himself on elbow 
and shouted greeting to us. In the semi-dark I 
couldn't see his face, but I recognized the voice. It 
was our friend of the whisky-keg episode, Piegan 
Smith. 

"Hello, thar, fellers!" he bellowed (Piegan al- 
ways spoke to a man as if he were a hundred yards 
away). "Say, Flood, yuh ain't been t' Benton an* 
back already, have yuh?" 

"Faith, no," I owned, between mouthfuls, "and 
it's hard telling when I will get there. How come 
you to be pacing along this trail, Piegan? Gone 
to freighting in your old age?" 

"Not what yuh could notice, I ain't," he snorted. 



204 RAW GOLD 



"Catch me whackin' bulls for a livin' ! Naw, I sold 
my outfit to a goggle-eyed pilgrim that has an idea 
buffalo hides is prime all summer. So I'm headed 
'for Benton to see if I kain't stir up a little excite- 
ment now an' then, to pass away the time till the 
fall bufifalo-run begins." 

"If you're looking for excitement, Piegan," Mac- 
Rae put in dryly, "you'd better come along with us. 
We'll introduce you to more different brands of it in 
the next few days than Benton could furnish in six 
months." 

"Maybe," Piegan laughed. "But not the brand 
I'm a-thirstin' for." 

Mac was on the point of replying when there 
came a most unexpected interruption. I looked up 
at sound of a startled exclamation, and beheld the 
round African physog of Lyn Rowan's colored 
mammy. But she'had no eyes for me; she stood 
like a black statue just within the firelight, a tin 
bucket in one hand, staring over my head at Mac- 
Rae. 

"Lawd a-me!" she gulped out. "Ef Ah ain't 



RAW GOLD 205 



sho'ly laid mah ol' eyes on Marse Go'don. Is dat 
sho' 'nuf yo', wid yo' red coat an' all ?" 

"It sure is, Mammy," Mac answered. **How 
does it happen you're traveling this way ? I thought 
you were at Fort Walsh. Is Miss Lyn along?" 

"She suttinly am," Mam^my Thomas emphatically 
asserted. "Yo' doan catch dis chile a-mosyin' obeh 
dese yeah plains by huh lonesome. Since dey done 
brought Miss Lyn's paw in an' planted him, she say 
dey ain't no use foh huh to stay in dis yeah red- 
coat country no longer; so we all packed up an' 
sta'ted back foh de Ian' ob de free." 

MacRae, I am sure, was no more than half 
through his meal. But he swallowed the coffee in 
his cup, and tossed his eating-implements into the 
cook's wash-pan. 

"I'll go with you, Mammy," he told her. "I want 
to see Miss Lyn myself.'* 

"Jes' a minute, Marse Go'don," she said. "Ah's 
got to git some wa'm watah f'om dis yeah Mr. 
Cook." 

The cook signaled her to help herself from the 



206 RAW GOLD 



kettle that bubbled over the fire, and she filled her 
bucket and disappeared, chattering volubly, Mac- 
Rae at her heels. 

I finished my supper more deliberately. There 
was no occasion for me to gobble my food and rusH 
off to talk with Lyn Rowan. MacRae, I suspected, 
would be inclined to monopolize her for the rest 
of the evening. So I ate leisurely, and when done 
crawled under the wagon beside Piegan Smith and 
gave myself up to cigarettes and meditation, while 
over his pipe Piegan expressed a most unflattering 
opinion of the weather. 

It was a dirty night, beyond question; one that 
gave color to Piegan's prophesy that Milk River 
would be out of its banks if the storm held till 
morning, and that Baker's freight-train would be 
stalled by mud and high water for three or four 
days. I was duly thankful for the shelter we had 
found. A tarpaulin stretched from wheel to wheel 
of the wagon shut out the driving rain that fled 
in sheets before the whooping wind. The light- 
ning-play was hidden behind the drifting cloud- 



RAW GOLD 207 



bank, for no glint of it penetrated the gloom; but 
the cavernous thunder-bellow roared intermittently, 
and a fury of rain drove slantwise against sodden 
earth and creaking wagon-tops. 

If the next two hours were as slow in passing, 
to MacRae and Lyn, as they seemed to me, the two 
of them had time to dissect and discuss the hopes 
and fears and errors of their whole existence, and 
formulate a new philosophy of life. Piegan broke 
a long silence to remark sagely that if Mac was 
putting in all this time talking to that "yaller- 
headed fairy," he was a plumb good stayer. 

"They're old friends," I told him. "Mac knew 
her long ago; and all her people." 

"Well, he's in darned agreeable company," Pie- 
gan observed. "She's a mighty fine little woman, 
far's I've seen. I dunno's I'd know when t' jar 
loose m'self, if I knowed her an' she didn't object 
t' me hangin' around. But seein' we ain't in on the 
reception, we might as well get under the covers, 
eh? I reckon most everybody in camp's turned in." 

Piegan had a bulky roll of bedding under the 



208 RAW GOLD 



wagon. Spread to its full width, it was ample for 
three ordinary men. We had just got out of our 
outside garments and were snuggling down between 
the blankets when Mac came slopping through the 
puddles that were now gathering in every depres- 
sion. He crawled under the wagon, shed some of 
his clothing, and got into bed with us. But he 
didn't lie down until he had rolled a cigarette, and 
then instead of going to sleep he began talking to 
Piegan, asking what seemed to me a lot of rather 
trifling questions. I was nearly worn out, and 
their conversation was nowise interesting to me, 
so listening to the monotonous drone of their voices 
and the steady beat of falling rain, I went to sleep. 
Before a great while I wakened; to speak truth- 
fully, the ungentle voice of Piegan Smith brought 
me out of dreamland with a guilty start. MacRae 
was still sitting up in bed, and from that part of 
his speech which filtered into my ears I gathered 
that he was recounting to Piegan the tale of our 
adventures during the past week. I thought that 
odd, for Mac was a close-mouthed beggar as a 



RAW GOLD 209 



general thing; but there was no valid reason why 
he should not proclaim the story from the hill-tops 
if he chose, so I rolled over and pulled the blankets 
above my head — to protect my ear-drums if Pie- 
gan's astonishment should again find verbal ex- 
pression. 

The cook's battle-cry of "Grub pi-i-ile" wakened 
me next. A thin line of yellowish-red in the east 
betokened the birth of another day, a day born in 
elemental turmoil, for the fierce wind was no whit 
abated, nor the sullen, driving rain. 

"I've enlisted a recruit," MacRae told me in an 
undertone, as we ate breakfast. "It struck me that 
if we had somebody along that we could trust to 
ride into that Police camp with his mouth shut and 
his ears and eyes open, we might find out something 
that would show us how the land lay; even if he 
accomplished nothing else, he could learn if those 
fellows are still with the troop." 

"That was why you were making that talk to 
Piegan last night, was it?" I said. "Well, from 
what little I've seen and heard of him, he'd be a 



210 RAW GOLD 



whole team if he's willing to throw in with us and 
take a chance/' Which was perfectly true. Old 
Piegan had the reputation, on both sides of the line, 
of loving to jump into a one-sided fight for the 
pure joy of evening up the odds. He was a bois- 
terous, rough-spoken mortal, but his heart was big, 
and set in the right place. And, though I didn't 
know it then, he had a grouch against Hicks, who 
had once upon a time run him into Fort Walsh in 
irons on an unjustified suspicion of whisky-running. 
That was really what started Piegan in the smug- 
gling business — a desire to play even, after getting 
what he called a "damn rough deal." 

"He's willing enough," Mac assured me. "Aside 
from the fact that most any white man would go 
out of his way to help a girl like Lyn Rowan, 
there's the certainty that the Canadian government 
will be pretty generous to anybody who helps round 
up that crooked bunch and restore the stolen money. 
Piegan snorted when I told him we were on the 
dodge — that they were trying to nail us for holding 
up the paymaster. That's the rottenest part of the 



RAW GOLD 211 



whole thing. I think — but then we've got to do 
more than think to get ourselves out of this jack- 
pot." 

He stopped abruptly, and went on with his break- 
fast. By the time we were done eating, the gray 
light of a bedraggled morning revealed tiny lakes 
in every hollow, and each coulee and washout was 
a miniature torrent of muddy water — with a prom- 
ise of more to come in the murky cloud-drift that 
overcast the sky. Horner sent out two men to 
relieve the night-herders, remarked philosophically 
"More rain, more rest," and retired to the shelter 
of the cook's canvas. His drivers sought cover in 
and under the wagons, where they had spent the 
night. But though mud and swollen streams might 
hold back the cumbrous freight outfit, it did not 
follow that heavy going would delay the flitting 
of the thieves, if they planned such a move; nor 
would it prevent the Mounted Police from descend- 
ing on the Baker outfit if they thought we had 
taken refuge there. So we held council of war 



212 RAW GOLD 



with Pieg-an, after which we saddled up and made 
ready to tackle the soaked prairies. 

While we were packing grub and bedding on Pie- 
gan's extra horse, Lyn joined us, wrapped from 
head to heel in a yellow slicker. And by the way 
Mac greeted her I knew that they had bridged that 
gap of five years to their mutual satisfaction; that 
she was loath to see him set out on a hazardous 
mission she presently made plain. 

"Let it go, Gordon," she begged. "There's been 
too much blood shed over that wretched gold al- 
ready. Let them have it. I know something dread- 
ful will happen if you follow it up." 

MacRae smiled and shook his head stubbornly. 
"I'm too deep in, little woman, to quit now," he told 
her patiently. "If it was only a matter of your 
money, we could get along without it. But Sarge 
stands to lose a lot, if we give up at this stage of 
the game. And besides, I'd always be more or less 
on the dodge if this thing isn't cleared up. I've got 
to see it through. You wouldn't have me sneak out 
of this country like a whipped pup, would you? 







"there's been too much blood shed over that wretched gold already. 

LET them have IT." Page 212. 



RAW GOLD 213 



There's too big an account to settle with those fel- 
lows, Lyn; it's up to us, if we're men. I can't draw 
back now, till it's settled for good and all, one way 
or the other." 

*'0h, I know how you feel about it," she sighed. 
"But even if it comes out all right, you're still tied 
here. You know they won't let you go." 

"Don't you worry about that," he comforted. 
"I'll cross that bridge fast enough when I come to 
it. You go on to Benton, like a good girl. I feel 
it in my bones that we're going to have better luck 
from now on. And if we do, you'll see us ride 
down the Benton hill one of these fine mornings. 
Anyway, I'll send you word by Piegan before long." 

Piegan was already mounted, watching us whim- 
sically from under the dripping brim of his hat. 
I shook hands with Lyn, and swung into my saddle. 
And when Mac had kissed her, we crowded through 
a gap in the circle of wagons, waved a last good- 
by, and rode away in the steadily falling rain. 



CHAPTER XVI. ' 

] 

IN THE CAMP OF THE ENEMY. I 



FROM then until near noon we worked our pas- 
sage if ever men did. On the high benches 
it was not so bad for the springy, porous turf 
soaked up the excessive moisture and held its firm- 
ness tolerably well. But every bank of any steep- 
ness meant a helter-skelter slide to its foot, with 
either a bog-hole or swimming water when we got 
there, and getting up the opposite hill was like 
climbing a greased pole — except that there was no 
purse at the top to reward our perseverance. Be- 
tween the succeeding tablelands lay gumbo flats 
where the saturated clay hung to the feet of our 
horses like so much glue, or opened under hoof- 
pressure and swallowed them to the knees. So that 
our going was slow and wearisome. 

About mid-day the storm gradually changed from 
unceasing downpour to squally outbursts, followed 



RAW GOLD 215 



by banks of impenetrable fog that would shut down 
on us solidly for a few minutes, then vanish like the 
good intentions of yesterday; the wind switched a 
few points and settled to a steady gale which lashed 
the spent clouds into hurrying ships of the air, 
scudding full-sail before the droning breeze. Be- 
fore long little patches of blue began to peep warily 
through narrow spaces above. The wind-blown 
rain-makers lost their leaden hue and became a soft 
pearl-gray, all fleecy white around the edges. Then 
bars of wanri sunshine poured through the widen- 
ing rifts and the whole rain-washed land lay around 
us like a great checker-board whereon black cloud- 
shadows chased each other madly over prairies yel- 
low with the hot August sun and gray-green in the 
hollows where the grass took on a new lease of life. 
That night we camped west of Lost River, lying 
prudently in a brush-grown coulee, for we were 
within sight of the Police camp — by grace of the 
field-glasses. At sundown the ground had dried 
to such a degree that a horse could lift foot without 
raising with it an abnormal portion of the North- 



216 RAW GOLD 



west. The wind veered still farther to the south, 
blowing strong and warm, sucking greedily the sur- 
plus moisture from the saturated earth. So we re- 
solved ourselves into a committee of ways and 
means and decided that since the footing promised 
to be normal in the morning the troop would likely 
scatter out, might even move camp, and therefore 
it behooved us to get in touch with them at once; 
accordingly Piegan rode away to spend the night in 
the Police tents, with a tale of horses strayed from 
Baker's outfit to account for his wandering. From 
our nook in the ridge he could easily make it by 
riding a little after dark. 

"Goodell and Gregory and Hicks you know,'** 
said MacRae. "Bevans is a second edition of Hicks, 
only not so tall by two or three inches — a square- 
shouldered, good-looking brute, with light hair and 
steel-gray eyes and a short brown mustache. He 
has an ugly scar — a knife-cut — across the baclc of 
one hand; you can't mistake him if you get sight 
of him. Stick around the camp in the morning if 
you can manage it, till they start, and notice which 



RAW GOLD 217 



way all those fellows go. The sooner we get our 
hands on one or more of them the better we'll be 
able to get at the bottom of this ; I reckon we could 
find a way to make him talk. Of course, if any- 
thing out of the ordinary comes up you'll have to 
use your own judgment; you know just as much as 
we do, now. And we'll wait here for you unless 
they jump us up. In that case we'll try and round 
up somewhere between here and Ten Mile." 

"Right yuh are, old-timer," Piegan responded. 
"I'll do the best I can. Yuh want t' keep your eye 
glued t' that peep-glass in the mornin', and not over- 
look no motions. Yuh kain't tell what might come 
up. So-long!" And away he went. 

When he was gone from sight we built a tiny 



fire in the scrub — for it was twilight, at which time 
keen eyes are needed to detect either smoke or fire, 
except at close range — and cooked our supper. That 
done, we smothered what few embers remained and 
laid us down to sleep. That wasn't much of a suc- 
cess, however. We had got into action again, with 
more of a chance to bring about certain desired 



218 RAW GOLD 



results, and inevitably we laid awake reckoning up 
the chances for and against a happy conclusion to 
our little expedition. 

''It's a wonder," I said, as the thought occurred 
to me, ''that Lyn quit Walsh so soon. Why didn't 
she sta}^ a while longer and see if these famous pre- 
servers of the peace wouldn't manage to gather in 
the men who killed her father? Why, hang it! she 
didn't even wait to see if you found that stuff at 
the Stone — and Lessard must have told her that 
somebody had gone to look for it." 

Mac snapped out an oath in the dark. "Lessard 
simply lost his head," he growled. "Damn him! 
He told her that he had sent us to look for it, and 
that we had taken advantage of the opportunity to 
rob the paymaster. Oh, he painted us good and 
black, I tell you. Then he had the nerve to ask her 
to marry him. And he was so infernally insistent 
about it, that she was forced to pull up and get away 
from the post in self-defense. That's why she left 
so suddenly." 

Well, I couldn't find it in my heart to blame 



RAW GOLD 219 



Lessard for that last, so long as he acted the gentle- 
man about it. In fact, it was to be expected of al- 
most any man who happened to be thrown in con- 
tact with Lyn Rowan for any length of time. I 
can't honestly lay claim to being absolutely immune 
myself; only my attack had come years earlier, and 
had not been virulent enough to make me indulge 
in any false hopes. It's no crime for an unattached 
man to care for a woman; but naturally, MacRae 
would be prejudiced against any one who laid siege 
to a castle he had marked for his own. I had dis- 
liked that big, autocratic major, too, from our first 
meeting, but it was pure instinctive antipathy on my 
part, sharpened, perhaps, by his outrageous treat- 
ment of MacRae. 

We dropped the subject forthwith. Lessard's 
relation to the problem was a subject we had so far 
shied around. It was beside the point to indulge in 
footless theory. We knew beyond a doubt who 
were the active agents in every blow that had been 
struck, and the first move in the tangle we sought to 
unravel was to lay hands on them, violently if neces- 



220 RAW GOLD 



sary, and through them recover the stolen money. 
Only by having that in our possession — so MacRae 
argued — could we hope tp gain credible hearing, 
and when that was accomplished whatever part 
Lessard had played would develop of itself. 

By and by, my brain wearied with fruitless specu- 
lation, I began to doze, and from then till daylight 
I slept in five-minute snatches. 

Dawn brought an access of caution, and we for- 
bore building a fire. Our horses, which we had 
picketed in the open overnight, we saddled and tied 
out of sight in the brush. Then we ate a cold break- 
fast and betook ourselves to the nearest hill-top, 
where, screened by a huddle of rocks, we could 
watch for the coming of Piegan Smith; and, inci- 
dentally, keep an eye on the redcoat camp, though 
the distance was too great to observe their move- 
ments with any degree of certainty. The most im- 
portant thing was to avoid letting a bunch of them 
ride up on us unheralded. 

**TheyVe not setting the earth afire looking for 
anybody," Mac declared, when the sun was well 



RAW GOLD 221 



started on its ante-meridian journey and there was 
still no sign of riders leaving the cluster of tents. 
"Ah, there they go." 

A squad of mounted men in close formation, so 
that their scarlet jackets stood out against the dun 
prairie like a flame in the dark, rode away from the 
camp, halted on the first hill an instant, then scat- 
tered north, south, and west. After that there was 
no visible stir around the white-sheeted commissary. 

"They're not apt to disturb us if they keep going 
the opposite direction," Mac reflected, his eyes con- 
ning them through the glasses. "And neither do 
they appear to be going to move camp. Therefore, 
we'll be likely to see Piegan before long." 

But it was some time ere we laid eyes on that 
gentleman. We didn't see him leaving the camp — 
which occasioned us no uneasiness, because a lone 
rider could very well get away from there unseen 
by us, especially if he was circumspect in his choice 
of routes, as Piegan would probably be. Only 
when two hours had dragged by, and then two 
more, did we begin to get anxious. I was lying on 



222 RAW GOLD 



my back, staring up at the sky, all sorts of possible 
misfortune looming large on my mental horizon, 
when MacRae, sweeping the hills with the glasses, 
grunted satisfaction, and I turned my head in time 
to see Piegan appear momentarily on high ground 
a mile to the south of us. 

"What's he doing off there?" I wondered. "Do 
you suppose somebody's following him, that he 
thinks it necessary to ride clear around us?" 

"Hardly ; but you can gamble that he isn't riding 
for his health," Mac responded. "Anyway, you'll 
soon know ; he's turning." 

Piegan swung into the coulee at a fast lope, and 
we stole carefully down to meet him. In the brush 
that concealed our horses Piegan dismounted, and, 
seating himself tailor-fashion on the ground, began 
to fill his pipe. 

"First thing," said he, "we're a little behind the 
times. Your birds has took wing and flew the 
coop." 

"Took wing — ^how? And when?" we demanded. 



RAW GOLD 223 



"You'll sabe better, I reckon, if I tell yuh just 
how I made out," Piegan answered, after a pause 
to light his pipe. "When I got there last night they 
was most all asleep. But this mornin' I got a chance 
to size up the whole bunch, and nary one uh them 
jaspers I wanted t' see was in sight. So whilst we 
was eatin' breakfast I begins t' quiz, an', one way 
an' another, lets on I wanted t' see that Injun scout. 
One feller up an' tells me he guess I'll find the breed 
at Fort Walsh, most likely. After a while I hears 
more talk, an' by askin' a few innocent questions I 
gets next t' some more. Puttin' this an' that to- 
gether, this here's the way she stacks up: Lessard, 
as you fellers took notice, went in t' Walsh, takin' 
several men with him, Gregory bein' among the lot. 
He leaves orders that these fellers behind are t' 
comb the country till he calls 'em ofiF. Yesterday 
mornin', in the thick uh the storm, a buck trooper 
arrives from Walsh, bearin' instructions for Good- 
ell, Hicks an' another feller, which I reckon is Bev- 
ans. So when she clears up a little along towards 
noon, these three takes a packadero layout an' starts, 



224 RAW GOLD 



presumable for Medicine Lodge. An' that's all I 
found out from the Policemen." 

"Scattered them around the country, eh?" Mac 
commented. "Damn it, we're just as far behind as 



ever. 



jj 



Hold your bosses a minute," Piegan grinned 
knowingly. "I said that was all I found out from 
the red jackets — but I did a little prognosticatin' 
on my own hook. I figured that if them fellers hit 
the trail yesterday afternoon as soon as the storm 
let up, they'd make one hell of a good plain track in 
this sloppy goin', an' I was curious t' see if they lit 
straight for the Lodge. So when the bunch got 
out quite a ways, I quits the camp an' swings round 
in a wide circle — an' sure enough they'd left their 
mark. Three riders an' two pack-hosses. Easy 
trackin'? Well, I should say! They'd cut a trail 
in them doby flats like a bunch uh gallopin' buffalo. 
Say, where is Medicine Lodge?" 

"Oh, break away, Piegan," Mac impatiently ex- 
claimed. "What are you trying to get at? You 
know where the Lodge is as well as I do.'* 



RAW GOLD 225 



"Well, I always thought I knowed where 'twas," 
Piegan retorted spiritedly, a wicked twinkle in his 
shrewd old eyes. "But it must 'a' changed location 
lately, for them fellers rode north a ways, an' then 
kept swingin' round till they was headin' due south- 
east. I follered their trail t' where yuh seen me 
turn this way, if yuh was watchin'. Poor devils" — 
Piegan grinned covertly while voicing this mock 
S3rmpathy — "they must 'a' got lost, I reckon. It 
really ain't safe for such pilgrims t' be cavortin' 
over the prairies with all that boodle In their jeans. 
I reckon we'll just naturally have t' pike along after 
'em an' take care of it ourselves. They ain't got 
such a rip-roarin' start of us — an' I'm the boy can 
foller that track from hell t' breakfast an' back 
again. So let's eat a bite, an' then straddle our 
cdballos for some tall ridin'." 



CHAPTER XVIL 

A MASTER-STROKE OF VILLAINY. 

PI EG AN shortly proved that he made no vain 
boast when he asserted his abihty to follow 
their track. A lifetime on the plains, and a 
natural fitness for the life, had made him ov/n 
brother to the Indian in the matter of nosing out 
dim trails. The crushing of a tuft of grass, a 
broken twig, all the half-hidden signs that the feet 
of horses and men leave behind, held a message for 
him ; nothing, however slight, escaped his eagle eye. 
And he did it subconsciously, without perceptible 
effort. The surpassing skill of his tracking did not 
strike me forcibly at first, for I can read an open 
trail as well as the average cowman, and the mark 
of their passing lay plain before us ; the veriest pil- 
grim, new come from graded roads and fenced pas- 
tures, could have counted the number of their steps 
•—each hoof had stamped its impression in the soft 



RAW GOLD 227 



loam as clearly as a steel die-cut in soaked leather. 
But that was where they had ridden while the land 
was still plastic from the rain. Farther, wind and 
sun had dried the ridge-turf to its normal firmness 
and baked the dobe flats till in places they were 
of their old flinty hardness. Yet Piegan crossed at 
a lope places where neither MacRae nor I could 
glimpse a sign — and when we would come again 
to soft ground the trail of the tliree would rise up 
to confront us, and bid us marvel at the keenness 
of his vision. He had a gift that we lacked. 

We followed in the wake of Piegan Smith with 
what speed the coulee-gashed prairie permitted, and 
about three o'clock halted for half an hour to let 
our horses graze; we had been riding steadily over 
four hours, and it behooved us to have some thought 
for our mounts. Within ten minutes of starting 
again we dipped into a wide-bottomed coulee and 
came on the place where the three had made their 
first night-camp — a patch of dead ashes, a few half- 
burned sticks, and the close-cropped grass-plots 
where each horse had circled a picket-pin. 



228 RAW GOLD 



Beyond these obvious signs, there was nothing to 
see. Nothing, at least, that I could see except faint 
tracks leading away from the spot. These we had 
followed but a short distance when Piegan, who was 
scrutinizing the ground with more care than he had 
before shown, pulled up with an exclamation. 

"Blamed if they ain't got company, from the look' 
uh things," he grunted, squinting down. "I thought 
that was considerable of a trail for them t' make. 
lYou fellers wait here a minute. I want t* find out 
which way them tracks come in." 

He loped back, swinging in north of the camp- 
ground. While he was gone, MacRae and I leaned 
over in our saddles and scanned closely the grass- 
carpeted bottom-land. That the hoofs of passing 
horses had pressed down the rank growth of grass 
was plain enough, but whether the hoofs of six or a 
dozen we could only guess. Piegan turned, rode to 
where they had built their fire, circled the place, 
then came back to us. 

"All right," he said. *T was sure there was more 
livestock left that campin'-place than we followed 



RAW GOLD 229 



in. They come from the north — four hosses, two 
uh them rode an' the other two led, I think, from 
the way they heaved around a-crossin' a washout 
back yonder." 

A mile or so farther we crossed a bare sandy 
stretch on the flat bottom of another coulee, and on 
its receptive surface the trail lay like a printed page 
»^nine distinct, separate horse-tracks. 

"Five riders an' four extra hosses, if I ain't read 
the sign wrong," Piegan casually remarked. "Say, 
we'll have our hands full if we bump into this bunch 
unexpected, eh?" 

"They'll make short work of us if they get half a 
chance," Mac agreed. "But we'll make it a surprise 
party if we can." 

From there on Piegan set a pace that taxed our 
horses' mettle — that was one consolation — we were 
well mounted. All three of us were good for a 
straightaway chase of a hundred miles if it came to 
a showdown. Piegan knew that we must do our 
trailing in daylight, and rode accordingly. He kept 
their trail with little effort, head cocked on one side 



^230 RAW GOLD 



like a saucy meadowlark, and whistled snatches of 
**Hell Among the Yearlin's," as though the prospect 
of a sanguinary brush with thieves was pleasing in 
the extreme. 

The afternoon was on its last lap when we came 
in sight of Stony Crossing. The trail we followed 
wound along the crest of a ridge midway between 
the Crossing and Ten Mile Spring, where we had 
left Baker's outfit that rainy morning. The freight- 
ers had moved camp, but the mud and high water 
had held them, for we could see the white-sheeted 
wagons and a blur of cattle by the cottonwood 
grove where Hank Rowan had made his last stand. 
Presently we crossed the trail made by the string of 
wagons; it was fresh; made that morning, I judged. 
A little farther, on a line between the Crossing and 
the Spring, Piegan pulled up again, and this time 
the cause of his halting needed no explanation. 
The bunch had stopped and tarried there a few 
minutes, as the jumbled hoof-marks bore witness, 
and the track of two horses led away toward Ten 
Mile Spring. 



RAW COLD 231 



"Darn it all!" Piegan grumbled. "Now, what 
d'yuh reckon's the meanin' uh that? Them two 
has lit straight for where Baker's layout was camped 
this mornin'. What for? Are they pullin' out uh 
the country with the coin? Or are they lookin' for 
you fellers?" 

"Well" — MacRae thought a moment — "consider- 
ing the care they've taken to cover up their move- 
ments, I don't see what other object they could 
have in view but making a smooth getaway. 
They've worked it nicely all around. You know 
that if there was anything they wanted they weren't 
taking any risk by going to any freight camp. 
We're the only men in the country that know why 
they are pulling out this way — and they know that 
we daren't go in and report it, because they've 
managed to put us on the dodge. They have reason 
to be sure that headquarters wouldn't for a minute 
listen to a yarn like we'd have to tell — they'd have 
time to ride to Mexico, while we sucked our thumbs 
in the guardhouse waiting for the rest of the Police 
to get wise by degrees." 



232 RAW GOLD 



"Then I tell yuh what let's do," Piegan abruptly 
decided. "I like t' know what's liable t' happen 
when I'm on a jaunt uh this kind. One of us better 
head in for the Crossin' an' find out for sure if any 
uh them fellers come t' the camp, an' what he 
wanted there. An' seein' nobody outside uh Homer 
knows I'm in on this play, I reckon I better go 
m'self. If there should happen t' be a stray trooper 
hangin' round there, the same would be mighty 
awkward for you fellers. So I'll go. You poke 
along the trail slow, an' I'll overhaul yuh." 

"All right," MacRae agreed, and Piegan forth- 
with departed for the Crossing. 

After Piegan left us we rode at a walk, and even 
then it was something of a task to follow the faint 
impression. In the course of an hour a cluster of 
dark objects appeared on the bench, coming rapidly 
toward us. MacRae brought the glasses to bear on 
them at once, for there was always the unpleasant 
possibility of Mounted Policemen cutting in on our 
trail; the riders of every post along the line were 
undoubtedly on the watch for us. 



RAW GOLD 233 



"It's Piegan and another fellow," Mac announced 
shortly. "They're leading two extra horses, and 
Piegan has changed mounts himself. I wonder 
what's up — they seem to be in a dickens of a hurry." 

We got off and waited for them, wondering what 
the change of horses might portend. They swung 
down to us on a run, and it needed no second glance 
at the features of Piegan Smith to know that he 
brought with him a fresh supply of trouble. His 
scraggly beard was thrust forward aggressively, and 
his deep-set eyes fairly blazed between narrowed lids. 

"Slap your saddles on them fresh bosses," he 
grated harshly from the back of a deep-chested, 
lean-flanked gray. "Let the others go — to hell if 
they want to !" 

"What's up?" I asked sharply, and MacRae flung 
the same query over one shoulder as he fumbled 
at the tight-drawn latigo-knot. 

Piegan rose in his stirrups and raised a clenched 
fist; the seamed face of him grew purple under its 
tan, and the words came out like the challenge of 
a range-bull. 



234 RAW GOLD 



''Them — them has got your girl!" 

he roared. 

The latigo dropped from MacRae's hand. 
*'What?" he turned on Piegan savagely, incredu- 
lously. 

"I said it — I said it ! Yuh heard me, didn't yuh !" 
Piegan shouted. "This mornin' about sunrise. 
That Hicks — the damned — — — he come t* 
Baker's as they hooked up t' leave the Spring. He 
had a note for her, an' she dropped everything an' 
jumped on a hoss he'd brought an' rode away with 
him, cryin' when she left. He told Horner you'd 
bin shot resistin' arrest, an' wanted t' see her afore 
yuh cashed in. They ain't seen hide nor hair uh 
her since. Aw, don't stand starin' at me thataway. 
Hurry up! They ain't got twelve hours' start — an' 
by God I'll smell 'em out in the dark for this !" 

It was like a knife-thrust in the back; such a 
devilish and unexpected turn of affairs that for 
half a second I had the same shuddery feeling that 
came to me the night I stooped over Hans Rutter 
and gasped at sight of what the fiends had done. 



RAW GOLD 235 



MacRae whitened, but the full import of Piegan's 
words stunned him to silence. The bare possibility: 
of Lyn Rowan being at the dubious mercy of those 
ruthless brutes was something that called for mord 
than mere words. He hesitated only a moment, 
nervously twisting the saddle-strings with one hand, 
then straightened up and tore loose the cinch fasten- 
ing. 

After that outburst of Piegan's no one spoke. 
While Mac and I transferred our saddles to the 
Baker horses, Piegan swung down from his gray 
and, opening the pack on the horse we had been 
leading, took out a little bundle of flour and bacon 
and coffee and tied it behind the cantle of his saddle. 
A frying-pan and coffee-pot he tossed to me. Then 
we mounted and took to the trail again, stripped 
down to fighting-trim, unhampered by a pack-horse. 

Of daylight there yet remained a scant two hours 
in which we could hope to distinguish a hoof-mark. 
Piegan leaned over his saddle-horn and took hills 
and hollows, wherever the trail led, with a rush 
that unrolled the miles behind us at a marvelous 



236 RAW GOLD 



rate. For an hour we galloped silently, matching 
the speed of fresh, wiry horses against the dying 
day, no sound arising in that wilderness of brown 
coulee banks and dun-colored prairie but the steady 
beat of hoofs, and the purr of a rising breeze from 
the east. Then I became aware that Piegan, watch- 
ing the ground through half-closed eyelids, was 
speaking to us. From riding a little behind, to give 
him room to trail, we urged our horses alongside. 

"Them fellers at Baker's camp," he said, without 
looking up, "would 'a' come in a holy minute if 
there'd been bosses for 'em t' ride. But they only 
had enough saddle-stock along t' wrangle the bulls 
— an' I took three uh the best they had. Three of 
us is enough, anyhow. We kain't ride up on them 
fellers now an' go t' shootin'. They're all together 
again. I seen, back a ways, where them two hoss- 
tracks angled back from the spring. They must 'a' 
laid up at that camp we passed till sometime before 
daylight — seein' that damned Hicks come t' Baker's 
early this mornin'. An' if they didn't travel very 
fast t'-day — ^which ain't likely, 'cause they probably 



RAW GOLD 237 



€i 



>_> 



figure they're dead safe, and their track don't show 
a fast gait — there's just a chance that we'll hit 'em 
by dark if we burn the earth. We're good for thirty 
miles before night covers up their track. Don't yuh 
worry none, old boy," he bellowed at MacRae. 
Old Injun Smith'll see yuh through. God! I could 
a* cried m*self when I hit that camp an' the old 
nigger woman went t' bawlin' when I told her yuh 
was both out on the bench, sound as a new dollar. 
That was the first they suspicioned anythin' was 
wrong. Them dirty, low-lived !" 

Piegan lapsed into a string of curses. MacRae, 
apparently unmoved, nodded comprehension. But 
I knew what he was thinking, and I knew that 
when once we got within striking distance of Hicks, 
Gregory & Co., there would be new faces in hell 
without delay. 

We slowed our horses to a walk to ascend an 
abrupt ridge. When we gained the top a vast 
stretch of the Northwest spread away to the east 
and north. Piegan lifted his eyes from the trail for 
an instant. 



238 RAW GOLD 



*'Great Lord!" he said. "Look at the buffalo. 
It'll be good-by t' these tracks before long." 

As far as the eye could reach the prairie was 
speckled with the herds, speckled with groups of 
buffalo as the sky is dotted with clusters of bright 
stars on a clear night. They moved, drifting slowly, 
in a southerly direction, here in sharply defined 
groups, there in long lines, farther in indistinct 
masses. But they moved ; and the air that filled our 
nostrils was freighted with the tang of smoke. 

We did not halt on the ridge. There was no need. 
We knew without speculating what the buffalo-drift 
and the smoke-tinged air presaged; and it bade us 
make haste before the tracks were quite obliterated. 

So with the hill behind us, and each of us keeping 
his thoughts to himself — none of them wholly pleas- 
ant, judging by my own — we galloped down the 
long slope, a red sunset at our backs and in our faces 
a gale of dry, warm wind, tainted with the smell of 
burning grass. And at the bottom of the slope, in 
the depths of a high-walled coulee where the eve- 
ning shadows were mustering for their stealthy 



RAW GOLD 239 



raid on the gilded uplands, we circled a grove of 
rustling poplars and jerked our horses up short at 
sight of a scarlet blotch among the gloom of the 
trees. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

HONOR AMONG THIEVES. 

WE knew, even as our fingers instinctively 
closed on the handles of our six-shooters, 
that we had not come upon the men we 
wanted; in such a case there would have been an 
exchange of leaden courtesies long before we man- 
aged to get in their immediate vicinity. It was un- 
likely that they would cease to exercise the cunning 
and watchfulness that had, so far, carried their in- 
fernal schemes through with flying colors. And a 
second look showed us that the scarlet coat be- 
longed to a man who half -sat, half -lay on the 
ground, his shoulders braced against the trunk of a 
fallen tree. We got off our horses and went cau- 
tiously up to him. 

"Be not afraid ; it is only I !" Goodell raised his 
head with an effort and greeted us mockingly. "I 
am, as you can see, hors de combat. What is your 
pleasure, gentlemen?" 



RAW GOLD 241 



The weakness of his tone and the palHd features 
of him vouched for the truth of his statement. 
Stepping nearer, we saw that the Hght-colored shirt 
showing between the open lapels of his jacket was 
stained a telltale crimson. The hand he held against 
his breast was dabbled and streaked with the blood 
that oozed from beneath the pressing fingers; the 
leaf-mold under him was saturated with it. 

"Where is the rest of the bunch?" MacRae asked 
him evenly. "You seem to have got a part of what 
is coming to you, but your skirts aren't clear, for 
all that." 

"You have a bone to pick with me, eh?" Goodell 
murmured. "Well, I don't blame you. But don't 
adopt the role of inquisitor — because I'm as good 
as dead, and dead men tell no tales. My mouth 
will be closed forever in a little while — and I can 
die as easily with it unopened. But if you'll get 
me a drink of water, and be decent about it, I'll 
unfold a tale that's worth while. I assure you it 
will be to your interest to give me a hearing." 

Piegan turned and strode out of the timber. He 



242 RAW GOLD 



unfastened the coffee-pot from my saddle, and made 
for the coulee channel we had crossed, in which a 
buffalo-wallow still held water from the recent rain. 

Goodell coughed, and a red, frothy stream came 
from his lips. It isn't in the average man to be 
utterly callous to the suffering of another, even if 
that other richly deserves his pain. Notwithstand- 
ing the deviltry he and his confederates had perpe- 
trated, I couldn't help feeling sorry for Goodell — ' 
what little I'd seen of him had been likable enough. 
I found it hard to look at him there and believe 
him guilty of murder, robbery, and kindred depre- 
dations. He was beyond reach of earthly justice, 
anyway; and one can't help forgiving much to a 
man who faces death with a smile. 

'Are you in any pain, Goodell ?" I asked. 

'None whatever," he answered weakly. "But 
I'm a goner, for all that. I have a very neat knife- 
thrust in the back. Also a bullet somewhere in my 
lungs. You see in me," he drawled, "a victim of 
chivalry. I've played for big stakes; I've robbed 
gaily, and killed a man or two in the way of %ht- 



i( 



((• 



RAW GOLD 243 



ing; all of which sits lightly on my conscience. But 
there are two things I haven't done. I want you to 
remember distinctly that I have not dragged that 
girl into this — nor had any hand in torturing a 
wounded old man." 

''You mean Lyn Rowan? Is she safe?" Mac 
squatted beside him, leaning eagerly forward to 
catch the reply. Piegan returned with the v^ater 
as Goodell was about to answer. He swallowed 
thirstily, took breath, and went on. 

"Yes, I mean her," he said huskily. 'Til tell you 
quick, for I know I won't last long, and when I'm 
done you'll know where to look for them. I started 
this thing — this hold-up business — ^no matter why. 
Lessard was away in the hole — gambling and other 
things — I hinted the idea to him; he jumped at it, 
as I thought he would. And — 



j> 



"Lessard!" I interrupted. "He was in on this, 
then?" 

'Was he?" Goodell echoed. "He is the whole 
thing." 

I had suspected as much, but sometimes it is s 



244 RAW GOLD 



surprise to have one's suspicions confirmed, I 
glanced at Mac and Piegan. 

"I was sure of it all along," Mac answered my 
unspoken thought. Piegan merely shrugged his 
shoulders. 

"I wanted to get that government money in the 
pay-wagon, that was all — at first," Goodell con- 
tinued. "We planned a long time ahead, and we 
had to take in those three to make it go. Then 
Lessard found out about those two old miners, and 
put Hicks and Gregory on their trail unknown to 
me — I had no hand in that foul business. You 
know the result — the finish — ^that night you lost the 
ten thousand — it was hellish work. I wanted to 
kill Hicks and Gregory when they told me. Poor 
old Dutchman! Lessard put Bevans on your trail, 
Flood. He followed you from Walsh that day, and 
you played into his hands that night when you 
stirred up the fire. Only for running into his part- 
ners, he would probably have murdered you for that 
ten thousand some night while you slept. Give me 
another drink." 



RAW GOLD 245 



I lifted the pot of water to his lips again, and 
he thanked me courteously. 

"Then Lessard conceived the theory that you fel- 
lows had learned more than you told. We were 
fixed to get the paymaster on that trip. We shook 
ycu, and did the job. MacRae was on the way — 
you know. He sent you to the Stone with those 
devils to keep cases on you. It seemed a pity to let 
slip that gold-dust after they had gone so far. You 
know how that panned out. We had a stake then. 
Lessard was the brains, the guiding genius; we did 
the work. The original plan was to make a clean- 
up, divide with him, and get out of the country — 
while he used his authority to throw the Force off 
the track till we were well away. Then the girl 
appeared, and Lessard lost his head. She turned 
him down; and at the last moment he upset our 
plans by deciding to cut loose and go with us. I 
believe now that he hatched this latest scheme when 
she refused him. I tell you he was fairly mad about 
her. He took advantage of this last trip to loot the 
post of all the funds he could lay hands on. We 



246 RAW GOLD 



have — or, rather, they have," he corrected, "about 
a hundred and fifty thousand altogether. 

"We couldn't ford Milk River on account of the 
storm. You tracked us ? You saw our last camp ? 
Yes. Well, we left there early this morning. And 
when Hicks turned off opposite Baker's outfit with 
an extra horse, I thought nothing of it — it was per- 
fectly safe, and we needed more matches, Lessard 
said. Not until he joined us later with the girl did 
I suspect that there were wheels within wheels; a 
kidnaping had never occurred to me; I hadn't 
thought his infatuation would carry him that far. 
She realized at once that she had been hoodwinked, 
and appealed to Lessard. He laughed at her, and 
told her that he had abandoned the modern method 
of winning a mate, and gone back to the primitive 
mode. 

"I've put myself beyond the pale; outlaw, thief, 
what you like — I'm not sensitive to harsh names. 
But a woman — a good woman! Well, I have my 
own ideas about such things. And when we camped 
here, I had made up my mind. I told Lessard she 



RAW GOLD 247 



must go back. That was a foolish move. I should 
have got the drop and killed him out of hand. 
While I argued with him, Hicks slipped a knife 
into my back, and as I turned on him Lessard shot 
me. Ah, well — it'll be all the same a hundred years 
from now. But I'd like to put a spoke in their 
wheel for the sake of that blue-eyed girl. 

"MacRae, you and Smith know the mouth of 
Sage Creek, and the ford there. That's where 
they'll camp to-night. I doubt if they'll cross the 
river till morning. If you ride you can make it in 
three hours. From there they plan to follow Milk 
River to the Missouri and catch a down-stream 
boat. But you'll get them to-night. You must. 
Now give me another drink — and drift!" 

"We'll get them, Goodell." MacRae rose to his 
feet as he spoke. "You're white, if you did get off 
wrong. I'll remember what you did — for her. Is 
there an}i:hing we can do for you?" 

Goodell shook his head. "I tell you," he said, 
and turned his head to look wistfully up at the 
eastern coulee-rim, all tinted with the blazing sun- 



248 RAW GOLD 



if 



ii^ 



set. 'Til go out over the hills with the shadows. 
An hour — maybe two. It's my time. I've no com-* 
plaint to make. All I want is a drink. You can do 
no good for a dead man; and the living are sorely 
in need. It'll be a bit lonesome, that's all.'* 

'No message for anybody?" MacRae persisted. 

'No — yes!" The old mocking, reckless tone 
crept into his voice again. "If you should have 
speech with Lessard before you put his light out, 
tell him I go to prepare a place for him — a super- 
heated grid! Now drift — vamos — ^hit the trail. 
Remember, the gorge at the mouth of Sage Creek. 
Good-by." 

Soberly we filed out from among the trees, now 
swaying in the grip of the wind, their leafy boughs 
rustling sibilantly ; as though the weird sisters whis- 
pered in the nodding branches that here was an- 
other thread full-spun and ready for the keen 
shears. Soberly we swung to the saddle and rode 
slowly away, lest the quick beat of hoofs should 
bring a sudden pang of loneliness to the intrepid 
soul calmly awaiting death under the shivering 



RAW GOLD 249 



trees. I think that one bold effort to right a wrong 
will more than wipe out the black score against him 
when the Book of Life is balanced. 

A little way beyond the poplar-grove Piegan drew 
rein, and held up one hand. 

*Toor devil," he muttered. "He's a-calling us." 
But he wasn't. He was fighting off the chill of 
loneliness that comes to the strongest of us when 
we face the unknowable, the empty void that there 
is no escaping. Dying there in the falling dusk, he 
was singing to himself as an Indian brave chants 
his death-song when the red flame of the torture- 
iire bites into his flesh. 

Sing heigh, sing ho, for the Cavalier! 

Sing heigh, sing ho, for the Crown. 
Gentlemen all, turn out, turn out; 

We'll keep these Roundheads down! 
Down — down — down — down. 
We'll ke — ep these Round — heads down! 

Once — twice, the chorus of that old English 
Royalist song rose up out of the grove. Then it 
died away, and we turned to go. And as we struck 
home the spurs, remembering the mouth of Sage 



250 RAW GOLD 



Creek and the dark that was closing down, a six- 
shooter barked sharply, back among the trees. 

I swung my horse around in his tracks and raced 
him back to the poplars, knowing what I would 
find, and yet refusing to believe. I will not say that 
his big heart had failed him ; perhaps it did not seem 

to him worth while to face the somber shadows to 
the bitter end, lying alone in that deep hollow in the 

earth. It may be that the night looked long and 
comfortless, and it was his wish to go out with the 
sun. He lay beside the fallen tree, his eyes turned 
blankly to the darkening sky, the six-shooter in his 
hand as he had held it for the last time. I straight- 
ened his arms, and covered his face with the blood- 
stained coat and left him to his long sleep. And 
even old Piegan lifted his hat and murmured 
"Amen" in all sincerity as we turned away. 



.i . 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE BISON. 

WHEN we reached high ground again the 
twihght was fading to a semicircle of 
bloodshot gray in the northwest. The 
wind still blew squarely in our faces. Down in the 
coulee we had not noticed it so much, but now every 
breath was rank with the smell of grass-smoke, and 
each mile we traversed the stink of it grew stronger. 
"We'll be blamed lucky if we don't run into a 
prairie-fire before mornin'," Piegan grumbled. 'Tf 
that wind don't let up, she'll come a-whoopin'. It'll 
be a sure enough smoky one, too, with this mixture 
uh dry grass an' the new growth springin' up. It 
didn't rain so hard down in this country, I notice. 
Ain't that a lalla of a smell?" 

Neither of us answered, and Piegan said no more. 
It grew dark — dark in the full sense of the word. 
The smoke-burdened atmosphere was impervious to 
the radiance of the stars. Only by Smith's instinc- 



252 RAW GOLD 



tive sense of direction did we make any headway 
toward the mouth of Sage Creek. Even MacRae 
owned himself somewhat at fault, once we came 
among the buffalo. They barred our path in dimly- 
seen masses that neither halted, scattered, nor turned 
aside when we galloped upon them in the gloom. 
We were the ones who gave the road, riding now 
before, now behind the indistinct bulk of a herd, 
according as we judged the shorter way. 

More dense became the brute mass. Whirled this 
way and that, as Piegan led, I knew neither east, 
west, north or south from one moment to another. 
Betimes we found a stretch of open country, and 
gave our horses the steel, but always to bring up 
suddenly against the bison plodding in groups, in 
ranks, in endless files. They were ubiquitous ; stolid 
obstructions that we could neither avoid nor ride 
down. Our progress became monotonous, a suc- 
cession of fruitless attempts to advance; hopeless, 
like wandering in a subtle maze. Bison to the right 
of us, bison to the left of us, an uncounted swarm 
behind us, and as many before — but they neither 



RAW GOLD 253 



bellowed nor thundered; they passed like phan- 
toms in the night, soundlessly save for the muffled 
trampling of cloven hoofs, and here and there upon 
occasion hoarse coughings that were strangled by 
the wind. 

And we rode as silently as the bison marched. 
For each one of us had seen that one-minded pil- 
grimage of the brown cattle take place in moons 
gone by. I recalled a time when a trail-herd lay 
on the Platte and the buffalo barred their passing 
for two days — even made fourteen riders and three 
thousand Texas steers give ground. Is it not his- 
tory that the St. Louis-Benton river-boats backed 
water when the bison crossed the Missouri in the 
spring and fall? Remembering these, and other 
times that the herds had gathered and swept over 
the plains, a plague of monstrous locusts, pushing 
aside men and freight-trains, I knew what would 
happen should the bufialo close their ranks, marshal 
the scattered groups into closer formation, quicken 
the pace of the multitude that poured down from 
the north. And presently it happened. 



254 RAW GOLD 



Insensibly the number of moving bodies in- 
creased. The consoHdation was imperceptible in the 
murk, but nevertheless it took place. We ceased 
to find clear spaces where we could gallop; a trot 
became impossible. We were hemmed in. A rank 
animal odor mingled with the taint of smoke. 
Gradually the muffled beat of hoofs grew more pro- 
nounced, a shuffling monotone that filled the night. 
We were mere atoms in a vast wave of horn and 
bone and flesh that bore us onward as the tide floats 
driftwood. 

The belated moon stole up from its lair, hovered 
above the sky-line, a gaudy orange sphere in the 
haze of smoke. It shed a tenuous glimmer on the 
sea of bison that had engulfed us; and at the half- 
revealed sight MacRae lifted his clenched hands 
above his head and cursed the circumstance that had 
brought us to such extremity. That was the first 
and only time I knew him to lose his poise, his 
natural repression. Still water runs deep, they say; 
and a glacial cap may conceal subterranean fires. 
Trite similes, I grant you — but, ah, how true. The 



RAW GOLD 255 



good Lord help those phlegmatics who can stand 
by unmoved when a self-contained man reveals the 
anguish of his soul in one passionate outburst. 
Could the fury that quivered in his voice have 
wreaked itself on the bison and the men we fol- 
lowed, the stench of their blasted carcasses would 
have reached high heaven. But the bison sur- 
rounded us impassively, bore us on as before ; some- 
where, miles beyond, Lessard pursued the evil tenor 
of his way; and MacRae's futile passion, like a 
wave that has battered itself to foam against a sullen 
cliff, subsided and died. Later, while we three cast- 
aways drifted with the bovine tide, he spoke to 
Piegan Smith. 

"How are we going to get through?" 

"Dunno. But we will get through, yuh c'n gam- 
ble on that." Optimism rampant was the domi- 
nating element in Piegan's philosophy of life. 

As if to prove that he was a true prophet, the 
herd split against a rocky pinnacle, and on this we 
stranded. So much, at least, we had gained — we 



256 RAW GOLD 



were no longer being carried willy-nilly out of our | 

way. i 

! 
\ 

"If they'd only scatter a little/' MacRae mut- 
tered. 

But for a long two hours the bison streamed by j 
our island, dividing before and closing behind the 
insensate peak that alone had power to break their 

close-packed ranks. Then came an opening, a fall- ] 

ing apart; slight as it was, we plunged into it witH ; 
joy. Thereafter we were buffeted like chips in the 

swirling maw of a whirlpool; we fought our way i 
rod by rod. Here an opening, and we shot through ; 

there a solid wall of flesh for whose passing we j 

halted, lashing out with quirts and spurring des- \ 

perately to hold our own — a war for the open road j 

against an enemy whose only weapon was his un- j 

swerving bulk. And we won. We pushed, twisted, ^ 

spurred our way through the ranks of a hundred ! 

thousand bison. Jostling, cursing the brute swarm, \ 
we crowded our horses against the press, and lo? 

of a sudden we reined up on open ground — the i 

bison, like a nightmare, were gone. Off in the | 




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RAW GOLD 257 



gloom to one side of us a myriad of hoofs beat the 
earth, the hoarse coughing-s continued, the animal 
odor exhaled — but it was no longer a force to be 
reckoned with. We were free. We had outflanlced 
the herd. 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE MOUTH OF SAGE CREEK. 

WITH that opposing force behind us, we bore 
away across the shrouded benches, 
straight for the mouth of Sage Creek. 
What method we would pursue when we got there 
was not altogether clear to me, and the same thing 
evidently bothered Piegan, for, after a long inter- 
val, he addressed himself pointedly to MacRae. 

"We ought t' hit the river in an hour or so," he 
said. "It's time we figured on how we're goin' t' 
work, eh? I wish t' the Lord it was daylight." 

"So do I," MacRae moodily responded. "For 
that matter, it won't be long. I've been thinking 
that the best way would be to get down on the flat 
at the north of the creek and cache our horses in the 
timber. Then we can sneak around without making 
any noise. If they're not camped on the flat, we'll 
find them somewhere up the gorge. Of course, 
there's a chance that they have crossed the river — • 



RAW GOLD 259 



but if they didn't get there in daylight, and the 
river is still high, I hardly think they'd risk fording 
in the dark." 

"That's about the way I had sized it up," Piegan 
replied. "The flat ain't bigger'n a good-sized flap- 
jack, nohow, an' if they're on that or up in Sage 
Creek canyon, we're bound t' locate 'em ; kain't help 
hearin' their bosses snort or cough or make some 
sort uh noise, if we go careful. The worst of it is, 
we kain't start the ball a-rollin' till we get that girl 
spotted — that's the hell of it! Like as not she'd 
be the first one t' get hurt. An' if we get rambunc- 
tious an' stir 'em up in the dark, an' don't put the 
finishin' to 'em right then an' there — why, they got 
all the show in the world t' make a hot-foot get- 
away. Sahe? While I ain't lookin' for a chance t' 
sidestep the game, for I know how yuh feel, I'd say 
locate 'em if we can, an' then back up a little and 
wait for day." 

"Oh, I know, I know !" Mac burst out. "That's 
sense. But it gives me the creeps to think — to 
think — 



>j 



260 RAW GOLD 



"Sure; we know it," Piegan answered softly. 
**We kain't tell till we get there, anyway. Maybe 
we'll get 'em dead t' rights. No tellin' what'll come 
up when we get into that canyon. When we get 
'em spotted we c'n make up our minds what t' do — 
if we have any time t' talk about it," he finished, in 
an undertone. 

As we rode, the crimson-yellow reflection of burn- 
ing prairies began to tint the eastern sky; once, 
from the crest of a hill, we saw the wavering line 
of flame, rising and falling in beautiful undulations. 
And presently we galloped across a mile or two of 
level grass-land and pulled up on the very brink of 
Sage Creek canyon. 

"Easy, easy, from here on," Piegan whispered 
caution. "We may be right above 'em, for all we 
know. We hit it a little too high up. How far 
d'yuh reckon it is t' the mouth, Mac?" 

"Not more than half a mile," MacRae returned. 
"We're not far out. I know where there's a good 
place to get down." 



RAW GOLD 261 



We turned sharply to the right, coming out on a 
narrow point. Without mishap we reached the foot 
of the steep hill. At the bottom the wind was al- 
most wholly shut off, so that sounds were easier 
to distinguish. The moon had passed its zenith 
long since, and half of the flat lay in dense shadow. 
Beyond the shadow a pall of smoke lay over every- 
thing, a shifting haze that made objects near at 
hand indefinite of outline, impossible to classify at a 
glance. A horse or a tree or a clump of brush 
loomed up grotesquely in the vaporous blur. 

Mac, to whom the topography of that gloomy 
place was perfectly familiar, led the way. A black, 
menacing wall that rose before us suddenly resolved 
itself into a grove of trees, great four-foot cotton- 
woods. He stole into the heart of the grove and 
satisfied himself that our game had not appropriated 
it as a camping-place. That assured, we followed 
with our horses and tied them securely, removing 
saddles and bridles, lest the clank of steel or creak- 
ing of leather betray our presence to listening ears. 
On any noise our horses might make we had no 



262 RAW GOLD 



choice but to take a chance. Then we looked to our 
guns and set out on a stealthy search. 

A complete circle of that tiny bottom — it was 
only a shelf of sage-brown land lying between the 
river and the steep bank — profited us nothing, and 
Piegan whispered that now we must seek for them 
in the gorge. 

Cautiously we retraced our steps from the lower 
end of the flat, and turned into the narrow mouth 
of the canyon. We had no more than got fairly 
between the straight-up-and-down walls of it than 
Piegan halted us with a warning hand. We squat- 
ted in the sage-brush and listened. Behind us, from 
the river, came a gentle plashing. 

"Beaver," I hazarded. 

"Too loud," Piegan murmured. "Let's go back 



an* see.*' 



We reached the river-edge just in time to hear 
the splashing die away ; and though we strained our 
eyes looking, we could make out no movement on 
the surface of the river or in the dimly-outlined 
scrub that fringed the opposite bank. Piegan turned 



RAW GOLD 263 



on the instant and ran to where we had tied our 
horses; but they stood quietly as we had left them. 

*'I got a hunch they'd got onto us, an' maybe set 
us afoot for a starter," Piegan explained. *'I reckon 
that must 'a' been a deer or some other wild 
critter." 

Once more we turned into the canyon, and this 
time followed its narrow, scrub-patched floor some 
three hundred yards up from the river. It was 
dark enough for any kind of deviltry in that four- 
hundred foot gash in the earth; the sinking moon 
lightened only a strip along the east wall, near the 
top; lower down, smoke mingling with the natural 
gloom cast an impenetrable veil from bank to bank ; 
not a breath of air stirred the tomblike stillness. 
Directly in front of us a horse coughed. We 
dropped on all fours, listened a moment, then crept 
forward. Without warning, we found ourselves 
foul of a picket-line, and the vague forms of graz- 
ing horses loomed close by. Piegan halted us with 
a touch, and we lay flat; then with our heads to- 
gether he whispered softly : 



264 RAW GOLD 



"We must be right on top uh them. It's a cinch 
their camp ain't far from their livestock. I won- 
der " 

To the left of us a horse snorted nervously; we 
heard him trot with high, springy strides to the 
end of his rope, and snort again. Then a voice cut 
the stillness that followed : "Here, you fool, what's 
the matter with you?" 

We hugged the ground like frightened rabbits. 
It hardly seemed possible that we could be within 
speaking-distance of them — yet that was Gregory's 
clear enunciation; I would know his speech in a 
jabberfest of several nations. 

"What's the matter?" That, by the curt inflec- 
tion, the autocratic peremptoriness, was Lessard. I 
had one hand on MacRae's shoulder, and I felt a 
tremor run through his body, like the rising of a 
cat's fur at sight of an adversary. 

"Oh, nothing much," Gregory answered care- 
lessly. "I was just speaking to one of these fool 
horses. They seem to be as nervous as you are." 



RAW GOLD 265 



And we could hear him chuckle over this last re- 
mark. 

After that there was nothing but the muffled tr- 
upj tv-up of grazing horses. Piegan or MacRae, I 
could not tell which, tugged gently at my arm, and 
the three of us retreated slowly, crawling both liter- 
ally and figuratively. When we were well away 
from the camp of that ungodly combination, Piegan 
rose to his feet and we proceeded a little faster until 
we reached a distance that permitted of low-toned 
conversation. 

"Now," Piegan declared, "we have 'em located. 
An' I'm here t' declare that it's plumb foolish t' mix 
things with that layout till we can see t' shoot tol- 
erable straight. If we go against 'em now, it'll be 
all same goin' blindfolded into a barn t' pick out 
the best boss. The first gun that pops they'll raise 
up an' quit the earth like a bunch uh antelope. They 
ain't got nothin' t' win in a fight — unless they're 
cornered. I did think uh trvin' t' s:et off with their 
bosses, but I figured it wouldn't pay with that sharp- 
eared cuss on the watch. Whenever it comes day, 



266 RAW GOLD 



we got all the best uh things — though I don't reckon 
we'll have a walkaway. We want t' make a clean 
job once we start in, an' we kain't do that in the 
dark. Furthermore, as I said before, if we go t* 
throwin' lead when we kain't see ten feet in front 
of us, we'd just about hit that girl first rattle out uh 
the box. She ain't comin' t' no harm just now, or 
it wouldn't be so blamed peaceful around there. 
It's only a matter of a couple uh hours t' daylight, 
anyhow. What d'yuh think ?" 

"Under the circumstances, the only thing we can 
do is to wait," MacRae assented, and I fancied that 
there was a reluctant quiver in his usually steady 
voice. "It's going to be smoky at daybreak, but we 
can see their camp from this first point, I think. 
There's a big rock over here— I'll show you — you 
and Sarge can get under cover there. I'll lie up 
on the opposite side, so they'll have to come between 
us. Let them pack and get started. When they get 
nearly abreast, cut loose. Shoot their saddle-horses 
first, then we can fight it out. Come on, I'll show 
you that rock." 



RAW GOLD 267 



MacRae's bump of location was nearly as well 
developed as Piegan's. He picked his way through 
the sage-brush to the other side of the canyon, 
bringing us in the deepest gloom to a great slab of 
sandstone that had fallen from above, and lay a 
few feet from the base of the sheer wall. It was 
a natural breastwork, all ready to our hand. There, 
without another word, he left us. Crouching in 
the shelter of that rock, not daring to speak above a 
whisper, denied the comforts of tobacco, it seemed 
as if we were never to be released from the dusky 
embrace of night. In reality it was less than two 
hours till daybreak, but they were slow-footed ones 
to me. Then dawn flung itself impetuously across 
the hills, and the naked rim of the canyon took form 
in a shifting whirl of smoke. Down in the depths 
gloom and shadows vanished together, and Piegan 
Smith and I peered over the top of our rock and 
saw the outlaw camp — men and horses dim figures 
in the growing light. We scanned the opposite side 
for sight of MacRae, but saw nothing of him; he 
kept close under cover. 



268 RAW GOLD 



^'They're packin' up," Piegan murmured, with a 
dry chuckle. "I reckon things won't tighten nor 
nothin' in a few minutes, eh? But say, damn if I 
see anything among that layout that resembles a 
female. Do you ?" 

I did not, even when I focused the field-glasses 
on that bunch at that short distance. Certainly she 
was not there — at least she was not to be seen, and 
I could almost read the expression on each man's 
features, so close did the glasses draw them up. 
And failing to see her started me thinking that after 
all she might have given them the slip. I hoped it 
might be so. Lyn was no chicken-hearted weakling, 
to sit down and weep unavailingly in time of peril. 
Bred on the range, on speaking-terms with the tur- 
bulent frontier life, her wits weren't likely to for- 
sake her in a situation of that kind. 

While the light of day grew stronger and the 
smoke eddied in heavier wreaths above, one of them 
swung up on a horse and came down the bottom 
at a fast lope. We had no means of knowing what 
his mission might be, but I did know that the square 



RAW GOLD 269 



shoulders, the lean eagle face, could only belong to 
one man ; and I dropped the glasses and drew a bead 
on his breast. I hesitated a second, squinting along 
the barrel of the carbine; I wanted him to round 
the point that jutted out from the other side of the 
canyon, so that his partners could not see his finish. 
If they did not see him go down, nor observe the 
puff of smoke from behind the rock, they might 
think he had fired a shot himself. And while I 
waited, grumbling at the combination of circum- 
stances that made it necessary to shoot down even 
a cold-blooded brute like him in such a way, Mac 
took the matter out of my hands in his own char- 
acteristic fashion. 

Lessard turned the point, and as the carbine- 
hammer clicked back under the pull of my thumb, 
MacRae sprang to his feet from behind a squatty 
clump of sage, right in Lessard's path. Nervy as 
men are made, MacRae worshiped at the shrine of 
an even break, a square deal for friend or foe. 
And Lessard got it. There among the sage-brush 
he got a fair chance for his life, according to the 



270 RAW GOLD 



code of men who settle their differences at the busi- 
ness end of a six-shooter. But it wasn't Lessard's 
hour. Piegan Smith and I saw his hand flash to 
his pistol, saw it come to a level, heard the single 
report of MacRae's gun. It was a square deal — 
which Lessard had not given us. He crumpled in 
the saddle; sprawled a moment on the neck of his 
horse, and dropped to the ground. MacRae sank 
behind the sage again, and we waited for the others. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

AN ELEMENTAL ALLY. 

BUT they did not come. One of them must have 
seen Lessard fall, for at the crack of Mac- 
Rae's gun men and horses, already half-hid- 
den by the thickening smoke, vanished into the 
brush. Piegan fired one ineffectual shot as they 
flicked out of sight. So far we had seen nothing 
of Lyn. I was satisfied she was not in the party, 
unaccountable as that seemed to be. 

"Darn 'em," Piegan grunted disgustedly. 
"They're next, now. An' they don't aim t' run the 
gantlet till they have t'. We got 'em penned, any- 
way ; they can't get out uh that patch uh brush with- 
out showin' themselves.'* 

"Oh, Piegan!" MacRae called to us. He lay 
within easy shouting-distance, and managed to make 
himself heard without rising. 



272 RAW GOLD 



"Hello!" Piegan answered. 

"Can you fellows keep them from going up the 
canyon?" 

"I reckon we can," Smith called back, "unless this 
smoke gets so blame thick we kain't see at all." 

"All right. I'm going up on top, and throw it 
into them from above. Maybe I can drive them out 
of the brush." 

Piegan slapped me on the shoulder. "Darn our 
fool hearts," he exclaimed. "We ought to 'a* 
thought uh that before. Why, he c'n pick 'em off 
like blackbirds on a fence, from up there on the 
bench !" 

We did not see MacRae go, but we knew that he 
must have crawled through the sage-brush to the 
creek channel, where, by stooping, he could gain 
the mouth of the canyon unseen. Anyway, our 
time was fully occupied in watching the brush- 
patch that sheltered our plundering friends. They 
held close to their concealment, however, nor did 
they waste any powder on us — for that matter, I 
don't think they knew just where we were, and they 



RAW GOLD 273 



were familiar enough with the gentle art of bush- 
whacking to realize that the open was a distinctly 
unhealthy place for either party to prospect. 

It was a long time till we heard from MacRae 
again, and, lying there passively, we grew afraid 
that after all they would give us the slip; for the 
smoke was now rolling in black clouds above the 
gorge. So far the thickest of it had blown over- 
head, but any moment a change of wind might whip 
It down the canyon bottom like an ocean fog, and 
that would mean good-by to Hicks & Co. 

"That fire's mighty close, an' comin' on the 
jump," Piegan remarked, with an upward glance. 
"I wish she'd let up long enough for us t' finish this 
job. That smoke's as good as they want, once it 
begins t' settle in the gorge. What in thunder d'yuh 
s'pose Mac's doin' all this time. He ought t' show 
pretty quick, now." 

He showed, as Piegan put it, very shortly. From 
the top of the opposite bank he fired a shot or two, 
and drew for the first time a return from the enemy. 
Then he broke off, and when he next gave hint of 



274 RAW GOLD 



his whereabouts, it was to hail us from the nearest 
point on the canyon rim. 

"Quit your hide-out and pull for the mouth of 
the gorge. Quick! I'll be there." 

"What the hell's up now!" Piegan muttered. 
*Well, I guess we'll have t' take a chance. If they 
don't wing us before we get across this bald place, 
we'll be all right. Run like yuh was plumb scairt 
t' death, Flood." 

We sprinted like a pair of quarter-horses across 
the thirty yards of bare ground that spread in front 
of the rock, a narrow enough space, to be sure, but 
barren of cover for a jack-rabbit, much less two 
decent-sized men. My heart was pumping double- 
quick when we threw ourselves headlong in the wel- 
come sage-brush — they had done their level best to 
stop us, and some of those forty-four caliber hum- 
ming-birds buzzed their leaden monotone perilously 
close to our heads. That is one kind of music for 
which I have a profound respect. 

From there to the creek-channel we crawled on 
all fours, as MacRae had done. Stooping, lest our 



RAW GOLD 275 



heads furnish a target, we splashed along in the 
shallow water till we reached the mouth of the can- 
yon. There we slipped carefully to higher ground. 
MacRae was scrambling and sliding down from 
above, barely distinguishable against the bank. Far 
up the gorge dense clouds of black smoke swooped 
down from the benchland. Already the patch of 
brush in which lay the renegade Policemen was 
hidden in the smudge, shut away from our sight. 
We hailed MacRae when he reached the foot of the 
hill, and he came crashing through sage and buck- 
brush and threw himself, panting, on the ground. 

*The fire," he gasped, "is coming down the 
gorge. They're cut off at the other end. They've 
got to come out here in a little while — or roast. 
The smoke would choke a salamander, on top, right 
now. We can't miss them in this narrow place, no 
matter how thick it gets. Look yonder!" 

A wavering red line licked its way to the canyon- 
edge on the east side, wiped out the grass, and died 
on the bald rim-rock. Away up the creek a faint 
crackling sounded. 



276 RAW GOLD 



"Dry timber," Piegan muttered. "It'll get warm 
'round here pretty directly." 

The smoke, blacker now, more dense, hot as a 
whiff from a baker's oven, swooped down upon us 
in choking eddies. It blew out of the canyon-mouth 
like a gust from a chimney, rolling over and over 
in billowy masses. The banks on either hand were 
almost invisible. We knew that our time of waiting 
was short. The popping of dry, scrubby timber 
warned us that our position would soon be unten- 
able. The infernal vapors from the unholy mixture 
of green and dry grass, berry bushes, willow scrub, 
and the ubiquitous sage, made breathing a misery 
and brought unwilling tears to our stinging eyes. 
And presently, above the subdued but menacing 
noises of the fire, the beat of galloping hoofs up- 
rose. 

They burst out of the mouth of the canyon, a 
smoke-wreathed whirlwind, heading for the protec- 
tion of the river. The pack-horses, necked together, 
galloped in the lead, and behind them Hicks, Greg- 
ory, and Bevans leaned over the necks of their 



RAW GOLD 277 



mounts. They knew that we were waiting for 
them, but at the worst they had a fighting chance 
with us, and none with what came behind. So thick 
hung the smoky veil that they were right on top of 
us before they took tangible shape; and when we 
rose to our knees and fired, the crack of their guns 
mingled with that of our own. Gregory, so near 
that I could see every feature of his dark face, the 
glittering black eyes, the wide mouth parted over 
white, even teeth, wilted in his saddle as they swept 
by. Bevans and his horse went down together. But 
Hicks the wily, a superb horseman, hung in his off 
stirrup and swerved away from us, and the smoke 
closed behind him to the tune of our guns. 

It was done in less time than it has taken to tell 
of it. There was no prolonged hand-to-hand strug- 
gle with buckets of blood marring the surrounding 
scenery, and a beautiful heroine wringing her hands 
in despair; merely a rush of horses and men out of 
the smoke, a brief spasm of gtm-fire — it was begun 
and ended in five seconds. But there were two 
fallen men, and Piegan Smith with a hole through 



278 RAW GOLD 



the big muscle of his right arm, to show that we had 
fought. 

The pack-horses, with no riders at their heels to 
guide them, had tangled each other in the connect- 
ing-rope and stopped. Hicks was gone, and likely 
to keep going. So we turned our attention to Greg- 
ory and Bevans. Gregory was dead as the pro- 
verbial door-nail, but Bevans, on investigation, 
proved to be very much alive — so much so that if 
he had not been partly stunned by the fall, and there- 
after pinned to the ground by a thousand-pound 
horse, he would have potted one or two of us with 
a good heart. As it was, we reached the gentleman 
in the same moment that he made a heroic effort to 
lay hold of the carbine which had luckily — for us — 
fallen beyond the length of his arm. 

**Yuh lay down there an' be good !" Piegan, out 
of the fullness of his heart, emphasized his com- 
mand with the toe of his boot. "Where's that girl, 
yuh swine?" 

"Go to hell !" Bevans snarled. 
'Here," MacRae broke in hastily, "we've got to 



tn 



RAW GOLD 27& 



move pretty pronto, and get across the river. That 
fire will be on us in five minutes. Sarge and I will 
gather up their horses. You keep an eye on Bevans, 
Piegan; he'll answer questions fast enough when I 
get at him." 

While Mac dashed across the creek I captured 
Gregory's horse, which had stopped when his rider 
fell; and as I laid hand on the reins I thought I 
heard a shot off beyond the river. But I couldn't 
be certain. The whine of the wind that comes with 
a fire, the crackle of the fire itself, the manifold 
sounds that echoed between the canyon walls and 
the pungent, suffocating smoke, all conspired 
against clear thinking or hearing. I listened a mo- 
ment, but heard no more. Then, with time at a 
premium, I hastened to straighten out the tangle 
of pack-animals. Mac loomed up in the general 
blur with Lessard's body on his horse, as I led the 
others back to where Piegan stood guard over 
Bevans. 

"Ain't this hell !" he coughed. "That fire's right 
on top of us. We got t' make the river in a hurry.'* 



280 RAW GOLD 



It was another minute's work to lash Gregory's 
body on one of the pack-horses, and release the 
sullen Bevans from the weight of his dead mount. 
As an afterthought, I looked in the pockets on his 
saddle, and the first thing I discovered was a wad 
of paper money big enough to choke an ox, as Pie- 
gan would say. I hadn't the time to investigate 
further, so I simply cut the anqueros off his saddle 
and flung them across the horn of my own — and 
even in that swirl of smoke and sparks I glowed 
with a sense of gratification, for it seemed that at 
last I was about to shake hands with the ten thou- 
sand dollars I had mourned as lost. Then Piegan 
and I drove Bevans ahead of us and moved the 
spoils of war to the river brink, while MacRae hur- 
ried to the Cottonwood grove after our own neg- 
lected mounts; they had given us too good service 
to be abandoned to the holocaust. 

MacRae soon joined us with the three horses; 
out into the stream, wading till the water gurgled 
around our waists, we led the bunch. Then we were 



RAW GOLD 281 



compelled to take our hats and slosh water over 
packs and saddles till they were soaked — for the 
fire was ravaging the flat we had just left, and 
showers of tiny sparks descended upon and around 
us. Thus proof against the fiery baptism, though 
still half -strangled by the smoke, our breathing a 
succession of coughs, we mounted and pushed 
across. 

The high water had abated and the river was now 
flowing at its normal stage, some three hundred 
yards in width and nowhere swimming-deep on the 
ford. We passed beyond spark-range and splashed 
out on a sand-bar that jutted from the southern 
bank. Midway between the lapping water and the 
brush that lined the edge of the flat, a dark object 
became visualized in the shifting gray vapor. We 
rode to it and pulled up in amaze. Patiently await- 
ing the pleasure of his master, as a good cavalry 
horse should, was the bay gelding Hicks had rid- 
den; and Hicks himself sprawled in the sand at the 
end of the bridle-reins. I got down and looked him 
over. He was not dead ; far from it. But a bullet 



282 RAW GOLD 



had scored the side of his head above one ear, and 
he was down and out for the time. 

We stripped the pistol-belt off him, and a knife. 
At the same time we rendered Bevans incapable of 
hostile movement by anchoring both hands securely 
behind his back with a pack-rope. That done, Pie- 
gan's bleeding arm came in for its share of atten- 
tion. Then we held a council of war. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

SPEECHLESS HICKS. 

WHEN I Spoke of holding a council of war, 
I did so largely in a figurative sense. Lit- 
erally, we set about reviving Hicks, with 
a view to learning from him what had become of 
Lyn Rowan. He and Bevans undoubtedly knew, 
and as Bevans persisted in his defiant suUenness, 
refusing to open his mouth for other purpose than 
to curse us vigorously, we turned to Hicks. A lib- 
eral amount of water dashed in his face aided him 
to recover consciousness, and in a short time he sat 
up and favored us with a scowl. 

"What has become of that girl you took away 
from Baker's freight-train yesterday morning?" 
MacRae dispassionately questioned. 

Hicks glared at him by way of answer. 

"Hurry up and find your tongue," MacRae 
prompted. 



284 RAW GOLD 



"I dunno what you're drivin' at," Hicks dis- 
sembled. 

"You will know, in short order," MacRae re- 
torted, "if you harp on that tune. We've got you 
where we want you, and I rather think you'll be 
glad to talk, before long. I ask you what became 
of that girl between the time you knifed Goodell and 
this morning?" 

Hicks started at mention of Goodell. His heavy 
face settled into stubborn lines. He blinked under 
MacRae's steady look. Of a sudden he sprang to 
his feet. I do not know what his intention may 
have been, but he got little chance to carry out any 
desperate idea that took form in his brain, for Mac- 
Rae knocked him back on his haunches with a single 
blow of his fist. 

"Answer me," he shouted, "or by the Lord! I'll 
make you think hell is a pleasure-garden compared 
to this sand-bar." 

"Kick a few uh his ribs out uh place for a 
starter," Piegan coolly advised. "That'll he'p him 
remember things." 



RAW GOLD 285 



Yet for all their threats Hicks obstinately refused 
to admit that he had ever seen Lvn Rowan. What 
his object was in denying knowledge we knew he 
possessed did not transpire till later. He knew the 
game was lost, so far as he was concerned, and he 
was mustering his forces in a last effort to save him- 
self. And MacRae's patience snapped like a frayed 
thread before many minutes of futile query. 

"Get me a rope off one of those pack-horses, 
Sarge," he snapped. 

I brought the rope ; and I will brazenly admit that 
I should not have balked at helping decorate the 
limb of a cottonwood with those two red-handed 
scoundrels. But I was not prepared for the turn 
MacRae took. Hicks evidently felt that there was 
something ominous to the fore, for he fought like a 
fiend when we endeavored to apply the rope to his 
arms and legs. There was an almost superhuman 
desperation in his resistance, and while MacRae and 
I hammered and choked him into submission Piegan 
gyrated about us with a gun in his left hand, beg- 
ging us to let him put the finishing touches to Hicks. 



286 RAW GOLD 



That, however, was the very antithesis of MacRae's 
purpose. 

"I don't want to kill him, Piegan," he said point- 
edly, when Hicks was securely tied. *'If I had, do 
you suppose I'd dirty my hands on him in that sort 
of a scramble when I know how to use a gun? I 
want him to talk — you understand? — and he will 
talk before I'm through with him." 

There was a peculiar inflection about that last 
sentence, a world of meaning that was lost on me 
until I saw Mac go to the brush a few yards dis- 
tant, return with an armful of dry willows and 
place them on the sand close by Hicks. Without 
audible comment I watched him, but I was puzzled 
— at first. He broke the dry sticks into fragments 
across his knee; when he had a fair-sized pile he 
took out his knife and whittled a few .shavings. 
Not till he snapped his knife shut and put in his 
pocket and began, none too gently, to remove the 
boots from Hicks' feet, did I really comprehend 
what he was about. It sent a shiver through me, 
and even old Piegan stood aghast at the malevolent 



RAW GOLD 287 



determination of the man. But we voiced no pro- 
test. That was neither the time nor place to abide 
by the Golden Rule. Only the law of force, ruth- 
less, inexorable, would compel speech from Hicks. 
And since they would recognize no authority save 
that of force, it seemed meet and just to deal with 
them as they had dealt with us. So Piegan Smith 
and I stood aloof and watched the grim play, for 
the fate of a woman hung in the balance. Hicks' 
salient jaw was set, his expression unreadable. 

MacRae stacked the dry wood in a neat pyramid 
twelve inches from the bare soles of Hicks' feet. 
He placed the shavings in the edge of the little pile. 
Then he stood up and began to talk, fingering a 
match with horrible suggestiveness. 

"Perhaps you think that by keeping a close mouth 
there's a chance to get out of some of the deviltry 
you've had a hand in lately. But there isn't. You'll 
get what's coming to you. And in case you're bol- 
stering up your nerve with false hopes in that direc- 
tion, let me tell you that we know exactly how you 
turned every trick. I don't particularly care to take 



288 RAW GOLD 



the law into my own hands; I'd rather take you in 
and turn you over to the guard. But there's a 
woman to account for yet, and so you can take your 
choice between the same deal you gave Hans Rutter 
and telling me what became of her." 

He paused for a moment. Hicks stared up at him 
calculatingly. 

"I'll tell you all I know about it if you turn me 
loose," he said. "Give me a horse and a chance to 
pull my freight, and I'll talk. Otherwise, I'm 
dumb." 

'Til make no bargains with you,'* MacRae an- 
swered. "Talk or take the consequences." 

Hicks shook his head. MacRae coughed — the 
smoke was still rolling in thick clouds from over 
the river — and went on. 

"Perhaps it will make my meaning clearer if I 
tell you what happened to Rutter, eh? You and 
Gregory got him after he was wounded, didn't you? 
He wouldn't tell where that stuff had been cached. 
But you had a way of loosening a man's tongue — 
I have you to thank for the idea. Oh, it was a good 



RAW GOLD 289 



one, but that old Dutchman was harder stuff than 
you're made of. You built a fire and warmed his 
feet. Still he wouldn't talk, so you warmed them 
some more. Fine! But you didn't suppose you'd 
ever get your feet warmed. I'm not asking much 
of you, and you'll be no deeper in the mire when 
you answer. If you don't — well, there's plenty of 
wood here. Will you tell me what I want to know, 
or shall I light the fire?'* 

Still no word from Hicks. MacRae bent and 
raked the match along a flat stone. 

"Oh, well," he said indifferently, "maybe you'll 
think better of it when your toes begin to sizzle." 

He thrust the flaring match among the shavings. 
As the flame crept in among the broken willows, 
Hicks raised his head. 

"If I tell you what become of her, will you let 
me go?" he proposed again. "I'll quit the coun- 
try." 

''You'll tell me — or cook by inches, right here," 
Mac answered deliberately. "You can't buy me 
off." 



290 RAW GOLD 



The blaze flickered higher. I watched it, with 
every fiber of my being revolting against such sav- 
agery, and the need for it. I glanced at Piegan and 
Bevans. The one looked on with grim repression, 
the other with blanched face. And suddenly Hicks 
jerked up his knees and heaved himself bodily aside 
with a scream of fear. 

"Put it out ! Put it out !" he cried. "I'll tell you. 
For God's sake — anything but the fire!" 

"Be quick, then," MacRae muttered, "before I 
move you back." 

"Last night," Hicks gasped, "when we pulled into 
the gorge to camp, she jerked the six-shooter out 
tih Lessard's belt and made a run for it. She took 
to the brush. It was dark, and we couldn't follow 
her. I don't know where she got to, except that she 
started down the creek. We hunted for her half the 
night — didn't see nothin'. That's the truth, s'help 



me. 



«i 



'Down the creek — say, by the great Jehosophat !" 
Piegan exclaimed. "D'yuh remember that racket in 
the water this mornin'? Yuh wait." He turned 



RAW GOLD 291 



and ran down-stream. Almost instantly the smoke 
had swallowed him. 

MacRae stood staring for a second or two, then 
turned and scattered the fire broadcast on the sand 
with a movement of his foot. He lifted his hat, and 
I saw that his forehead and hair was damp with 
sweat. 

"That was a job I had mighty little stomach for," 
he said, catching my eye and smiling faintly. "I 
thought that sulky brute would come through if I 
made a strong bluff. I reckon I'd have weakened in 
another minute, if he hadn't." 

"Ugh!" I shuddered. "It gave me the creeps. 
I wouldn't miake a good Indian." 

"Nor I," he agreed. "But I had to know. And 
I feel better now. I'm not afraid for Lyn, since I 
know she got away from them." 

Piegan, at this moment, set up a jubilant halloo- 
ing down the river, and shortly came rushing back 
to us. 

"Aha, I told yuh," he cried exultantly. "That 
was her crossed the river this mornin'. I found her 



292 RAW GOLD 



track in the sand. One uh yuh stand guard, and 
the other feller come with me. We c'n trail her." 

"Go ahead," I told MacRae — a superfluous com- 
mand, for I could not have kept him from going if 
I had tried. 

So I was left on the sand-bar with two dead 
thieves, and two who should have been dead, and 
a little knot of horses for company. Hicks and 
Bevans gave me little concern. I had helped tie 
both of them, and I knew they would not soon get 
loose. But it was a weary wait. An hour fled. 
I paced the bar, a carbine in the crook of my arm 
and a vigilant eye for incipient outbreaks for free- 
dom on the part of those two wolves. The horses 
stood about on three legs, heads drooping. The 
smoke-clouds swayed and eddied, lifted a mom.ent, 
and closed down again with the varying spasms of 
the fire that was beating itself out on the farther 
shore. I sat me down and rested a while, arose 
and resumed my nervous tramping. The foglike 
haze began to thin. It became possible to breathe 
without discomfort to the lungs ; my eyes no longer 



RAW GOLD 293 



stung and watered. And after a period in which I 
seemed to have walked a thousand miles on that 
sandy point, I heard voices in the distance. Pres- 
ently MacRae and Piegan Smith broke through the 
willow fringe on the higher ground — and with them 
appeared a feminine figure that waved a hand to 
me. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

THE SPOILS OF WAR. 

ALL things considered, it was a joyous knot of 
humanity that gathered on that sand-bar — 
if one excepts the two pkmderers who were 
tied hard and fast, their most cheerful outlook a 
speedy trial with a hangman's noose at the finish. 
I recollect that we shook hands all around, and that 
our tongues wagged extravagantly, regardless of 
whoever else might be speaking. We settled down 
before long, however, remembering that we were 
not altogether out of the woods. 

The fire by this time had, to a great extent, beaten 
itself out on the opposite bank, and with nothing 
left but a few smoldering brush-patches, the smoke 
continued to lift and give us sundry glimpses of the 
black desolation that spread to the north. So far 
as we knew, the wind had carried no sparks across 
the river to fire the south side and drive us back to 



RAW GOLD 295 



the barrenness of the burned lands. And with the 
certainty that Lyn was safe, and that we were be- 
yond disputing masters of the situation, came con- 
sciousness of hunger and great bodily weariness. 
It was almost twent3^-four hours since we had eaten, 
and we were simply ravenous. As a start toward 
an orderly method of procedure, we began by re- 
dressing Piegan's punctured arm, which had begun 
to bleed again ; though it was by no means as serious 
a hurt as it might have been. Piegan himself 
seemed to consider it a good deal of a joke on him, 
and when I remarked that I failed to see how a 
bullet-hole through any part of one's person could 
be regarded in a humorous light, Piegan snorted, 
and told me that I would know more when I grew 
tip. A little ventilation, he declared, was some- 
thing a man's system needed every year or two. 

Then we unsaddled and unpacked the horses, and 
moved them up on the grassy flat. Piegan elected 
himself guard over the prisoners, while the rest of 
us cooked a belated breakfast, and he assured them 
repeatedly that he would be delighted to have them 



296 RAW GOLD 



make a break, so that he could have the pleasure of 
perforating their individual and collective hides. I 
really believe the old rascal meant it, too: he suc- 
ceeded, at least, in giving that impression, and his 
crippled arm was no handicap to him — he could 
juggle a six-shooter right or left-handed with 
amazing dexterity. 

Lyn substantiated Goodell's story in every detail, 
so far as it had dealt with her, and she told me, 
while we pottered about the fire, how she waited her 
chance when they made camp in Sage Creek, and, 
snatching Lessard's gun, ran for it in the dark. 

"I didn't really know where I was," she told me 
naively. "So I thought I'd better hide till daylight 
and watch them go before I started. Then I could 
try and make my way back to the freight outfit — I 
felt sure they would either wait for me or send a 
man back to Walsh when I didn't come back. I 
was hiding in those cottonwoods when you came 
stealing in there this morning. You were so quiet, 
I couldn't tell who it was — I thought perhaps they 
were still hunting for me; they did, you know — • 



RAW GOLD 297 



they were rummaging around after me for a long 
time. But I never dreamed it could be you and 
Gordon. So I sneaked down to the river and 
crossed; I was deadly afraid they'd find me, and I 
thought once I was on the other side I could hear 
them coming, and scuttle away in the brush. Then 
about daylight I heard some shooting, and won- 
dered if they had been followed. I didn't dare cross 
the river and start over the hills with that fire com- 
ing, and the smoke so thick I couldn't tell a hill 
from a hollow. I waited a while longer — I was in 
this brush up here" — she pointed to a place almost | 

opposite — "and in a little while I heard more shoot- 
ing, and in a minute or so, he" — indicating Hicks — j 
"came splashing through the river. He was on the ' 
sand-bar before I could see him clearly, and coming 

straight toward where I was huddled in the brush.  

i 
Oh, but I was frightened, and before I knew it, al- ; 

most, I poked the gun between the branches and 1 

fired at his head as straight as I could — and he fell ' 

off his horse. Then I ran, before any more of them i 

I 
came. And that's really all there is to it. I was i 



'298 RAW GOLD 



'hi 



plodding up the river, when I heard Gordon shout- 
ing two or three hundred yards behind. Of course 
I knew his voice, and stopped. But dear me! this 
seems like a bad dream, or maybe I ought to say a 
good one. I hope you won't all disappear in the 
smoke." 

"Don't you worry," MacRae assured her. "When 
we vanish in the smoke we'll take you with us." 

After we had eaten we made a systematic search 
of packs and saddle-pockets, and when we had fin- 
ished there was more of the root of all evil in sight 
than I have laid my eyes on at any one time before 
or since. The gold that had drawn us into the 
game was there in the same long, buckskin sacks, a 
load for one horse. The government money, looted 
from the paymaster, part gold coin and part bills, 
they had divided, and it was stowed in various 
places. Lessard's saddle-pockets were crammed, 
and likewise those of Hicks and Gregory. Bevans* 
anqueros, which I had taken from his dead horse, 
yielded a goodly sum. Altogether, we counted some 



RAW GOLD 299 



seventy-odd thousand dollars, exclusive of the gold- 
dust in the sacks. 

"There's a good deal more than that, according 
to Goodell's figures," MacRae commented. "Les- 
sard must have got away with quite a sum from 
the post. I daresay the pockets of the combination 
hold the rest. But I don't hanker to search a dead 
man, and that can wait till we get to Walsh." 

"Yuh goin' t' lug this coyote bait t' Fort Walsh?" 
Piegan inquired. "I'd leave *em right here without 
the ceremony uh plantin'. An' I vote right here an' 



now t' neck these other two geesers together an' 
run 'em off'n a high bank into deep water." 

"I'd vote with you, so far as my personal feeling 
in the matter goes," MacRae replied. "But we've 
got a lot of mighty black marks against us, right 
now, and we're going in there to relate a most 
amazing tale. Of course, we can prove every word 
of it. But I reckon we'll have to take these two car- 
casses along as a sort of corroborative evidence. 
Every confounded captain in the Force will have to 
view them officially; they wouldn't take our word 



300 RAW GOLD 



for their being dead. So it would only delay the 
clearing up of things to leave them here. These 
other jaspers will lend a fine decorative effect to 
the noosed end of a three-quarter-inch rope for their 
part in the play — unless Canadian justice miscarries, 
which doesn't often happen if you give it time 
enough to get at the root of things.'* 

Much as we had accomplished, we still had a 
problem or two ahead of us. While we didn't 
reckon on having to defend ourselves against the 
preposterous charge of holding up the paymaster, 
there was that little matter of violent assault on the 
persons of three uniformed representatives of 
Northwestern law — assault, indeed, with deadly 
weapons; also the forcible sequestration of govern- 
ment property in the shape of three troop-horses 
with complete riding appurtenances ; the uttering of 
threats; all of which was strictly against the peace 
and dignity of the Crown and the statutes made 
and provided. No man is supposed, as MacRae had 
pointed out to me after we'd held up those three 
troopers, to inflict a compound fracture on one law 



RAW GOLD 301 



in his efforts to preserve another. But it had been 
necessary for us to do so, and we had justified our 
judgment in playing a lone hand and upsetting Les- 
sard's smoothly conceived plan to lay us by the heels 
while he and his thugs got away with the plunder. 
We had broken up as hard a combination as ever 
matched itself against the scarlet-coated keepers of 
the law; we had gathered them in with the loot 
intact, and for this signal service we had hopes 
that the powers that be would overlook the break 
we made on Lost River ridge. Lessard had created 
a damnatory piece of evidence against himself by 
lifting the post funds; that in itself would bear wit- 
ness to the truth of our story. It might take the 
authorities a while to get the proper focus on the 
tangle, but we could stand that, seeing that we had 
won against staggering odds. 

From the mouth of Sage Creek to Fort Walsh It 
is a fraction over fifty miles, across comparatively 
flat country. By the time our breakfast was done 
we calculated it to be ten o'clock. We had the half 
of a long mid-summer day to make it. So, partly. 



302 RAW GOLD 



because we might find the full fifty miles an ash- 
strewn waste, fodderless, blackened, where an after- 
noon halt would be a dreary sojourn, and partly for 
the sake of the three good horses we had pushed so 
unmercifully through the early hours of the night, 
we laid on the grassy river-bottom till noon. Then 
we packed, placed the sullen captives in the saddle 
with hands lashed stoutly, mounted our horses and 
recrossed the river. Once on the uplands we struck 
the long trot — eight hours of daylight to make fifty 
miles. And we made it. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE PIPE OF PEACE. 

TWENTY minutes after the sunset gun awoke 
the echoes along Battle Creek we slipped 
quietly into Fort Walsh and drew rein be- 
fore the official quarters of the officer of the day; a 
stiffened, saddle-weary group, grimy with the sooty 
ash of burned prairies. From the near-by barracks 
troopers craned through windows, and gathered in 
doorways. For a moment I thought the office was 
deserted, but before we had time to dismount, the 
captain ranking next to Lessard appeared from 
within, and behind him came a medium-sized man, 
gray-haired and pleasant of countenance, at sight of 
whom MacRae straightened in his saddle with a 
stifled exclamation and repeated the military salute. 
The captain stared in frank astonishment as Mac- 
Rae got stiffly out of his saddle and helped Lyn to 
the ground. Then he snapped out some sharp ques- 



304 RAW GOLD 



tion, but the gray-haired one silenced him with a 
gesture. 

"Softly, softly, Stone," he said. "Let the man 
explain voluntarily." 

"Beg to report, sir," MacRae began evenly, "that 
we have captured the men who robbed Flood, mur- 
dered those two miners, and held up the paymaster. 
Also that we have recovered all the stolen money." 

"What sort of cock-and-bull story is this ?" Stone 
broke in angrily. "Preposterous! Orderly, 
call " 



"Easy, easy now. Captain Stone," the older man 
cut in sharply. "A man doesn't make a statement 
like that without some proof. By the way," he 
asked abruptly, "how did you manage to elude Ma- 
jor Lessard and get in here ?" 

MacRae pointed to one of the horses. "We 
didn't elude him. You'll find what's left of the 
black-hearted devil under that canvas," he answered 
coolly. "Lessard was at the bottom of the crooked- 
ness. We've packed him and Paul Gregory fifty 
miles for you to see." 



RAW GOLD 305 



"Ha!" the old fellow seemed 'not so surprised as 
I had expected. He glanced over the lot of us and 
let another long-drawn "ha" escape. 

"May I ask a favor, Colonel Allen?" MacRae 
continued. "This lady has had a hard day. Will 
you excuse her, for the present? We have a story 
to tell that you may find hard to credit." 

The colonel (I'd heard of him before; I knew 
when MacRae spoke his name that he was Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the Northwest Mounted Police, 
the biggest gun of all) favored us with another ap- 
praising stare. 

"These men, I take it, are prisoners?" he said^ 
pointing to Hicks and Bevans. 

"You bet your sweet life them's prisoners," Pi- 
egan broke in with cheerful assurance. "Them gen- 
tlemen is candidates for a rope necktie apiece — 
nice perfessional assassins t' have in the Police !" 

Allen turned to the orderly. "A detail of four 
from the guardhouse on the double-quick," he com- 
manded. 

Captain Stone stood by gnawing his mustache 



306 RAW GOLD 



while Allen listened unmoved as MacRae pointed 
out the horse on which was packed the bulk of the 
loot, and gave him a brief outline of the abduction 
and the subsequent fight at the mouth of Sage 
Creek. The orderly returned with the detail, and 
Allen courteously sent him to escort Lyn to the 
liospitality of Bat Perkins' wife, as MacRae asked. 
After which the guard marshaled Piegan, MacRae, 
and me, along with Hicks and Bevans, into the room 
where MacRae and Lessard had clashed that mem- 
orable day. Then they carried in the two bodies 
and laid them on the floor, and last of all the pack 
that held Hank Rowan's gold and the government 
currency. 

While this was being done an orderly flitted from 
house to house on oflicers' row; the calm, pleasant- 
voiced, shrewd old Commissioner gathered his cap- 
tains about him for a semi-oflicial hearing. The 
dusk faded into night. Here and there about the 
post lights began to twinkle. We stood about in 
the ante-room, silent under the vigilant eye of the 
guard. After an uncertain period of waiting, the 



RAW GOLD 307 



orderly called "Gordon MacRae," and the inquisi- 
tion began. 

One at a time they put us on the rack — probing 
each man's story down to the smallest detail. It 
was long after midnight when the questioning was 
at an end. The finale came when a trooper searched 
the bodies of Lessard and Gregory, and relieved 
Hicks and Bevans of the plunder that was still con- 
cealed about their persons. They counted the 
money solemnly, on the same desk by which Les- 
sard stood when MacRae flung that hot challenge 
in his teeth, and lost his stripes as the penalty. Out- 
side, the wind arose and whoo-^^-ed around the 
corner of the log building; inside, there was a 

strained quiet, broken only by the occasional rattle 
of a loose window, the steady chink — chink of coin 
slipping through fingers, the crisp rustle of bills, 
like new silk. And when it was done Allen leaned 
back in his chair, patting the arm of it with one 
hand, and surveyed the neatly piled money and the 
three buckskin sacks on the desk before him. Then 



308 RAW GOLD 



he stood up, very erect and stern in the yellow lamp- 
light. 

"Take those men to the guardhouse," he ordered 
curtly, pointing an accusing finger at Hicks and 
Bevans. "Iron them securely — securely!" 

He turned to me. "I regret that it will be neces- 
sary for you to wait some little time, Flood, before 
your money can be restored to you," he said in a 
pleasanter tone. "There will be certain formalities 
to go through, you understand. You will also be 
required as a witness at the forthcoming trial. We 
shall be glad to furnish you and Smith with com- 
fortable quarters until then. It is late, but MacRae 
knows these barracks, and doubtless he can find 
you a temporary sleeping place. And, in conclusion, 
I wish to compliment all three of you on the courage 
and resource you displayed in tracking down these 
damnable scoundrels — damnable scoundrels." 

He fairly exploded that last phrase. I daresay 
it was something of a blow to his pride in the Force 
to learn that such deviltry had actually been fathered 
by one of his trusted officers; something the same 



RAW GOLD 309 



sorrowful anger that stirs a man when one of his 
own kin goes wrong. Then, as if he were half- 
ashamed of his burst of feeling, he dismissed us 
with a wave of his hand and a gruff "That's all, to- 
night." 

^^^ ^^* ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ 

That practically was the finish of the thing. 
There was, of course, a trial, at which Hicks and 
Bevans were convicted out of hand and duly sen- 
tenced to be hung — a sentence that was carried out 
with neatness and despatch in the near future. Also, 
I did manage, in the fullness of time, to deliver La 
Pere's ten thousand dollars without further gun- 
play. 

Colonel Allen knew a good man when he saw 
one — he was not long in demonstrating that fact. 
When everything was straightened out, MacRae — > 
urged thereto by Lyn — made a straightforward re- 
quest for honorable discharge. But he did not get 
it. Instead, the gray-haired Commissioner calmly 
offered him promotion to an Inspectorship, which 
is equivalent to the rank of a captain, and carries 



310 RAW GOLD 



pay of two thousand a year. And MacRae, of 

course, accepted. 

The day he cast off the old red jacket of the rank 

and file and put on the black uniform with braid 

looped back and forth across the front of it, and 

gold hieroglyphics on the collar, Piegan Smith and 

I stood up with him and Lyn and helped them get 

fitted to double harness. Not that there was any 

lack of other folk; indeed, it seemed to me that 

the official contingent of Fort Walsh had turned 

out en masse to attend the ceremony. But Piegan 

and I were the star guests. 

* * * *  * * 

Ah, well, we can't always be young and full of 
the pure joy of living. One must grow old. And 
inevitably one looks back with a pang, and sighs 
'for the vanished days. But Time keeps his scythe 
a-swinging, and we go out — like a snuffed candle. 
We lived, though, we who frolicked along the forty- 
ninth parallel when Civilization stood afar and 
viewed the scene askance ; but she came down upon 
tis and took possession fast enough when that wild* 



RAW GOLD 3111 



land was partly tamed, and now few are left of 
those who knew and loved the old West, its perils, 
its hardships, its bigness of heart and readiness of 
hand. Such of us as remain are like the buffalo 
penned in national parks — a sorry remnant of the 
days that were. 

THE END. 



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YB 39852